The Labour Party and others in the workers’ movement in Norway heavily criticized private nursing homes and pledged to end them in Oslo during speeches to the weekend’s Labour Day celebrations, as the party received continued good news from opinion polls.
Oslo’s Labour candidate for leader of Oslo city council, Libe Rieber-Mohn, told crowds assembled for the May 1 celebrations in the centre of the capital that her party would transfer all of the city council’s privately-operated nursing homes back to state sector if Labour and the other Red-Green parties won a majority in the upcoming local elections. Private nursing home operations have come under intense public and media scrutiny in recent months as part of the so-called ‘Adecco issue,’ after a number of revelations of breaches of employment law were uncovered related to HR and recruitment agency Adecco and others.
‘May 1 more relevant’
“The revelations regarding the recruitment agencies shows that the workers’ movements’ main issues are never irrelevant,” Rieber-Mohn said when speaking to the rally, as reported by news agency NTB. “It shows why it is necessary to gather here today. The celebration of May 1 is more relevant than for a long time.” She was particularly critical of the largest right-wing parties, the Conservative Party and the Progress Party, that currently run Oslo city council. “The right has been a hindrance to a more satisfactory working life,” she said. “There is more over-time, more temporary employment and there is above all privatization for its own sake, as a principal and goal in and of itself.”
Rieber-Mohn also promised that a Red-Green Oslo city council would work to ensure better working conditions for all 43,000 employees in the nursing home system. “There will be an end to lousy wages and staying overnight in the basement,” she commented. She also attacked the Conservative Party and Progress Party for not doing enough about class and ethnic divisions between the wealthy west and less prosperous east side of Oslo.
The leader of the Progress Party has responded to the criticism. In a speech reported in newspaper Dagsavisen on the same day, Siv Jensen criticized Labour for having “ignored” the “larger number of breaches of law” in public sector care homes, unfairly singling out private providers. Speaking more generally on May 1 celebrations, she said that “Labour’s slogans have gone out of date.”
Polling news last week, reported by Dagsavisen, showed that residents in Oslo nursing homes run by voluntary or private companies reported higher satisfaction than those in homes run directly by the local authority.
‘You will get a fight’
The leader of the Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen, LO), Roar Flåthen, also used his speech to trade unionists and campaigners in Stavanger to push for an end to the privatization of care homes. “For some, profit is the most important thing,” Flåthen said, as reported by NTB. “The Adecco case shows how wrong this can go.” He demanded “reduced use of temporary workers’ agencies and better oversight and control.” He attacked “right-wing politicians” who “are lining up to attack what we have achieved.” “They want to have North Sea hours at nursing homes but 13 hour days are not what is best for those that need care,” he added. Flåthen also welcomed the government’s recent initiative to give a further NOK 10 million (over USD 1.9 million) to the state Directorate of Labour Inspection, who are carrying out a number of investigations into the Adecco controversy.
Flåthen told the Conservative Party and the Progress Party that if they tried to weaken workers’ rights, they “will get a fight.”
The other main theme of Flåthen’s speech was the revolutions in the Arab world. He extended his support those “the people rising up against brutal regimes, food shortages and unemployment” in the Middle-East and north Africa.
Better poll news for Labour
Just after Labour Day, the Labour Party also received encouraging news as part of a recent return to form in opinion polls. The website Poll of poll’s showed that the party had improved by 1.1 percentage points on average in surveys conducted from March onwards, making them Norway’s largest party on 29.3 percent of the polling share. A continued concern for the party will nevertheless be the large fluctuation in their polling results, with performances ranging from 32.4 percent down to 25.5 percent in some polls.
There was bad news for the Conservative Party and Progress Party, who are being talked about as a future governing coalition. While recent polls since July 2010 had shown the two parties commanding combined voting shares that would translate into a parliamentary majority, the latest results showed them falling short of the 85 members of parliament required for a majority with 79. The main reason for this appears to be the continued decline of the Progress Party, who have suffered an embarrassing recent underage sex scandal – the party have fallen 3.2 percentage points on average over the last month alone to an average share of 18.9 percent. The Conservative Party, who had recently been polling as the biggest party in Norway and have improved massively since their third-placed finish in the 2009 election, have remained stagnant on 27 percent.
However, the parties of the current Red-Green coalition continue to lag behind with figures corresponding to 72 parliamentary seats, with some of the biggest winners in the recent polls being the small opposition parties, who have benefited from the decline of the larger opposition groups. The Liberal Party has on average improved by 1.2 percentage points in the polls, while the Christian Democrats have grown by 0.6 percent points on average. This would give the two parties a combined total of 18 seats if repeated in a general election, making them key players in any resulting coalition negotiations.