Security guards’ strike set to spread

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An ongoing strike by security guards in Norway was due to spread on Wednesday to more airports and may start hurting offshore oil production. While some airports remained closed, because they didn’t have enough personnel to adequately staff security control checkpoints, Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen could report relatively smooth operations.

A total of 149 vekter (security personnel) have been pulled off the job at OSL Gardermoen and passengers have been warned since the strike began over the weekend to arrive several hours earlier at the airport than usual, to be sure of getting through the lines that were expected to be long at security control.

While lines have been long at times, they were shorter than expected both late Monday and on Tuesday, especially at midday, when one passenger reported clearing security control in just five minutes.

Relieved, but preparing for more trouble
Jo Kobro, information chief at OSL Gardermoen, was relieved but warned that things might get worse again if more security employees are pulled off the job from Wednesday. That’s when their labour organization Norsk Arbeidsmandsforbund claimed they would expand the strike after another attempt at mediation failed Monday night.

After six hours of talks with national mediator Kari Gjesteby, both union leader Erna Hagensen and Petter Furulund, lead negotiator for the employers’ organization NHO Service, reported they hadn’t come close enough to actually resume voluntary mediation.

Furulund claimed he made a good offer amounting to an average pay raise of NOK 20,000 per year, while Hagensen claimed Furulund’s offer contained old pay supplements and remained inadequate.

That leaves around 3,000 security guards on strike nationwide with another 439 set to walk off the job on Wednesday. Airline passengers should therefore continue to be prepared for delays at the airports and that more airports may close. In addition to OSL Gardermoen, the strike was affecting airports at Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim, Tromsø, Haugesund, Ålesund, Kristiansund, Alta, Bodø, Sandnessjøen and flights from Florø to offshore installations. Airports at Førde and Leknes would be affected from Wednesday.

Minibanks (automated teller machines, ATMs) were also running low on cash, or empty, because of a lack of security personnel to refill them, while retail merchants were encouraging use of debit and credit cards instead of cash because the strike was leading to a lack of money couriers. Home security alarm services were also curtailed.

Effects on oil production may force action
Helicopter traffic to and from offshore oil installations in the North Sea was also also expected to be increasingly disrupted, an effect of the strike that may hit the state treasury most of all.

“If the strike leads to problems for oil production, the authorities will quickly order forced negotiations,” predicted economics professor Rolf Jens Brunstad to website aftenposten.no. Kristine Nergaard of research organization Fafo disagreed.

“This strike shows how security personnel can control important areas like airports, oil installations and the movement of money,” Nergaard told newspaper Aftenposten. “But it takes a lot for the government to order forced negotiations, and the government has been criticized by the International Labour Organisation for being too quick with them before. I think they’ll evaluate that very carefully.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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