Strike looms among 30,000 workers

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Negotiations reportedly were running as warm as the weather in Oslo on Wednesday, with state mediator Kari Gjesteby working hard to avert a strike by around 30,000 public sector workers at midnight. The negotiations between their labour union Unio and their employers involve pay and work conditions for a total of around 600,000 state and township workers.

Thousands of police, teachers, health care and customs workers are among those threatening to walk off the job if their demands aren’t met. The demands include a pay raise averaging 4 percent plus 10 days of fully paid leave to care for sick and elderly parents, not just children.

Most Norwegian workers already get paid time off to care for sick children. With an ageing population and a shortage of nursing home beds, increasing numbers of middle-aged and older workers are caught between juggling jobs and caring for needy parents. Unio wants to start addressing the issue in this year’s labour negotiations.

The most important issue, however, was the pay raise. “Education and competence must pay off more in the public sector than it has earlier,” Unio leader Anders Folkestad told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Teachers and lawyers on the public payroll, for example, are among those demanding higher pay than other state and township workers. Unio members also want more funding for continuing education, clear labour rules that protect free time outside of normal daytime work hours, less use of temporary workers and more full-time positions.

Gesteby said she was remaining confident the two sides would find a solution. Negotiations were due to continue through the afternoon and evening.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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