Nearly 50,000 pulled out on strike

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After a long holiday weekend with no reported negotiations, thousands more Norwegian public sector workers were being called out on strike on Tuesday. Nearly 50,000 state and municipal employees are now off the job, with their union leaders claiming that the effects of their strike will be increasingly felt.

More schools and day centers were closing early this week, because they didn’t have enough teachers or staff to remain open. While parents and their children thus remain perhaps the hardest hit by the strike that began last week,  other Norwegians will also soon mark the lack of public sector workers on the job in several areas.

Fuel shortage looms
Motorists in southeastern Norway, for example, may soon have a hard time filling the tanks of their vehicles. That’s because striking port pilots and employees of local harbor authorities are preventing many vessels from berthing or offloading in and around the Oslo Fjord, including the tankers that deliver fuel to local petroleum terminals.

Terminals in the Oslo area, for example Statoil’s at Sjursøya, aren’t expected to get new fuel supplies until the strike is over. They serve gasoline stations not only in the Oslo metropolitan area but around much of Akershus and Østfold counties, and the retail stations may run dry. A spokeswoman for Norske Shell told newspaper Aftenposten that the company was watching the situation closely.

Striking employees within the maritime sector already have caused problems for cruise traffic in and out of Oslo. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported how several cruiseships including Emerald Princess were forced to turn around and drop scheduled stops in Oslo because they couldn’t bring the required pilots on board. Thousands of passengers due to arrive and depart on the RCCL ship Vision of the Seas also faced holiday disruption, with the vessel being redirected from Oslo to either Larvik or Gothenburg in Sweden. “For passengers, this means a lot of practical problems,” Margrethe Austad of the Oslo Harbor Authority told DN.

Passport and immigrant services curtailed
One of the three main unions involved in the strike, Fagforbundet, was pulling 14,738 more members off the job on Tuesday. They included municipal employees at schools, day care centers, the after-school child-minding program SFO, athletic facilities and swimming pools. State employees in the foreign ministry and the state highway department will also be affected.

Another union, Unio, was taking another 7,300 of its members out on strike, including many working at colleges and universities, within the police and at tax offices. Police working in Norway’s passport division and with immigration issues were also due to be affected.

More members of the nurses’ union, Sykepleierforbundet, were also being called off the job as were another 600 members of YS, the latter affecting administrative services in the townships affected and at schools, libraries and day care centers.

For a look at who was taken out on strike in its opening phase, click here.

Mediation was due to continue between union representatives for 43,000 employees and employers in Oslo, which so far hasn’t been hit by a municipal strike but is feeling the effects of state workers in Oslo who are called out on picket lines.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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