Strike over for all municipal workers

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UPDATED: One of the biggest and lengthiest strikes to hit Norway in nearly 30 years ended during the night, after three labour organizations representing thousands of municipal workers accepted a new offer from their township employers. A settlement was also reached in Oslo, but strikes continued among some state workers and among security guards nationwide.

Trade union confederations LO Kommune, Unio, YS Kommune and Akademikerne accepted a pay raise on behalf of their members amounting to 4.07 percent. That’s slightly less than the 4.1 percent raise that most state workers accepted over the weekend, but union leaders put a positive spin on it, claiming they won other important workplace agreements.

City strikers in Oslo also returning to work
Oslo officials and the labour organizations representing city employees negotiate separately, but the top city politician in charge of finance issues, Kristin Vinje of the Conservative Party (Høyre), told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that they’d also come to terms around 6am Wednesday morning.

“We’ll be getting in touch with all parties involved so that we can get people back to work as quickly as possible,” Vinje told NRK. “It’s difficult to say when schools and day care centers can open, so parents just have to follow developments closely.”

It was also hoped that garbage collection would resume as soon as possible, but it may take time to fire up the garbage processing plants that were shut down by the strike. They need to be up and running before they can receive garbage, but collection hopefully would resume Thursday if not before.

Strike was losing support
The unions had begun to attract criticism for carrying on a strike when there was little chance they’d extract any more concessions. The strike also had severely disrupted public services, not least closing the schools and day care centers. Increasing numbers of so-called “innocent third parties” were being hurt by a strike that had evolved mostly into just a way for the unions to vent their anger.

Most all involved claimed they were pleased with the settlement, engineered by state mediator Reidun Wallevik. “We are first and foremost glad the strike is over and that township residents will again receive the services to which they’re entitled,” said Sigrun Vågeng, head of municipal employers’ association KS.

Mimi Bjerkestrand, lead negotiator for Unio, claimed their “most important demand” was met – that higher education will result in higher pay. Most Unio members will now receive a raise of around NOK 20,000 per year plus local enhancements.

“We carried out a necessary strike and are glad that it’s now over,” Bjerkestrand told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Her counterpart at YS Kommune, Gunn Olander, also claimed the strike had paid off for her members.

Others still on strike
The strike is not over, however, among Unio’s state workers, who so far have refused to return to work even though other state labour organizations have settled. That means state meteorologists, thousands of police officers, nurses, physiotherapists, researchers and even pastors in the state church were still off the job.

A strike by security guards was spreading on Wednesday, leading to more long lines at airport security control points. Their labour organization was pulling another 450 workers off the job, with Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen hit the hardest. Five airports planned to close: Alta, Kristiansund, Sandnessjøen, Førde and Leknes.

The security guards’ strike was also beginning to cause problems for shopping centers, banks, minibanks and Oslo’s central train station because of inadequate levels of security personnel.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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