Mediation may resume to end strike

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UDATED: Both sides in the major strike that’s spreading around Norway agreed to meet with the state mediator (Riksmekleren) again Thursday evening, in an effort to end the first state strike in 28 years. There’s some new momentum towards a settlement, but  Norwegians looked likely to face more disruption of public services plus chaos at the country’s airports, while garbage piles up.

Those are the two latest areas bound to start plaguing residents, especially in Oslo, where the strike first hit on Wednesday. Garbage collection stopped Thursday morning because the strike shut down the two facilities at Klemetsrud and Haraldrud in Oslo where garbage is sorted and processed. With no place to deliver the garbage, garbage trucks stopped collecting it.

That can lead to potential health problems, and city officials were warning Oslo residents against simply leaving garbage at overfilled containers. They advised residents against buying food items with a lot of packaging and advised them not to use the portable “en gangs” grills that create a lot of hazardous garbage. They also advised residents to pack garbage well and simply store it until the strike ends.

‘Take responsibility for your own garbage’
They suggested packing food remains together in double plastic bags and even freezing them, to avoid smells.

Garbage has been piling up already in Bergen and Trondheim, sparking fears of rat infestation. Unsightly heaps of garbage and garbage strewn in, for example, parks is another problem.

“We’re urging everyone to take responsibility for their own garbage,” Elisabeth Marie Vollan of the garbage collection agency Renovasjonsetaten told newspaper Aftenposten. “Don’t just leave your garbage in parks or other public areas.”

Long lines feared at airport security
Airport officials, meanwhile, were warning of “full chaos” at Norwegian airports if the strike continues. That’s because around 280 security guards were also due to strike from Friday morning, leaving airports with greatly reduced capacity for processing passengers through airport security checkpoints. Negotiations went into overtime during the night and talks were continuing Friday morning.

If a strike is called, it wouldn’t take effect for six hours, according to labour officials, so security control points at Norwegian airports were expected to continue operating normally at least through Friday afternoon.

“The airlines can fly, but the number of passengers clearing security will be greatly reduced,” said Espen Ettre, a director at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen. Around 240 security guards will be pulled off the job at Gardermoen alone, along with 39 at Moss Lufhavn Rygge. That will lead to long lines after check-in. Airports serving Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim and Tromsø will be affected as well.

‘Issues to chew on’
Hopes were rising it all may averted if mediation resumed Thursday evening. Both sides were called in earlier on Thursday, to a short meeting that lasted less than an hour but provided them with “issues to chew on,” according to Pål N Arnesen of YS Stat.

Both YS and Unio officials said they’d meet with their colleagues “and coordinate ourselves and see what the day will bring,” Unio negotiator Arne Johannessen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Then they prepared to head back to the mediator at 5pm, with signs of more talks later in the evening.

Asked whether a pay raise of 4 percent, up from the 3.75 percent they’ve been offered, would be accepted and end the strike, Johannessen said he wouldn’t speculate. Unio rejected a raise of 3.96 percent that some other unions accepted from city officials in Oslo.

Meanwhile, “we are still on strike. No one who has been pulled off the job shall go back to work,” said Arnesen. The strike has closed schools and day care centers, curtailed health care services, stranded cruise passengers and cancelled cruiseship calls, and affected a wide range of other public services.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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