Talks aim to head off bank strike

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Negotiators for bank employers and employees in Norway were huddling on Monday in last-ditch efforts to head off what could be the country’s first bank strike in 35 years. A strike would cause massive disruption of payment systems nationwide.

Many Norwegians were lining up at minibanks (automated teller machines) on Monday to get their hands on good old-fashioned cash, which from midnight on Monday would be the only way to purchase goods and service for as long as a strike lasts. In a society like Norway’s, where people use debit and credit cards for even the smallest of purchases, payment routines were under serious threat.

Cards can’t be used in Norway
All minibanks will immediately cease functioning from midnight if a strike is called, as will what’s called betalingsterminaler, the electronic boxes used for debit- and credit card purchases by stores, restaurants and most all merchants and suppliers of services in Norway. That means customers won’t be able to use their bank cards (bankkort) in Norway for the duration of a strike.

Bank branches will also close and bank websites won’t be functional, other than to show account balances. Norwegians won’t be able to purchase anything over Norwegian websites, won’t be able to make deposits into night safes or use account telephones or other bank services.

Norwegian bank customers traveling outside of Norway will, however, still be able to use their debit or credit cards, and Norwegian bank cards can be used on foreign websites. Automated payment systems were also expected to function.

Pay dispute
A strike threatened to pull more than 15,000 bank employees off the job. At issue are pay disputes between the employees’ union, Finansforbundet, and employers’ organization Finansnæringens Arbeidsgiverforening (FA) and disagreement over compensation for measures aimed at raising competence among employees.

Talks broke down last last week but both sides were meeting on Monday to avoid a strike as a midnight deadline loomed.  National labour mediator Kari Gjestiby said the last meeting was used to list areas of disagreement, but she said it was “impossible” to determine whether the two sides had made any progress towards a settlement.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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