Unio strikers closer to settling

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As a nationwide strike by security guards entered its sixth day on Thursday, another ongoing strike by state workers represented by labour organization Unio Stat appeared to be winding down. Late-night bargaining sessions were being evaluated and “persistent efforts” were reportedly being made to end the conflict.

Labour organization Unio has kept its state workers with higher education out on strike while its members at the municipal level and other state workers went back to work. Strikers' signs here read "Clever people cost (money)." Now Unio Stat may be settling as well, while a separate strike by security guards drags on. PHOTO: Unio

Unio leaders refused to settle when their counterparts at other trade union confederations came to terms with state employers over the weekend. Unio leaders have since conceded that they don’t think they have much to gain by keeping more than 3,000 of their members out on strike, and even expanding their ranks this week, but they claim they’re making a point that they’re angry, not least over how negotiations have played out this year.

Some commentators have said that means the ongoing strike by selected state workers including police personnel, college and university lecturers, state meteorologists and health care workers has evolved into a political strike. Unio’s members are not expected to win any bigger wage improvements than the 4.07 percent pay hike accepted by around 47,000 striking public sector workers earlier this week.

National mediator Kari Gjesteby told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday that the latest round of talks ended with an agreement by both sides “to sum up” where they stand. “I expect we’ll continue tomorrow (Friday) and then we’ll see how far we’ve come,” Gjesteby told NRK. “We’re making persistent efforts to come out of this strike.”

NRK reported that a proposed settlement was on the table that could get the remaining Unio strikers back to work by the weekend. The strike has threatened to cancel important end-of-year exams for college students, for example, and curtailed police investigations in many cities.

Security guards holding out
There was no end in sight, meanwhile, to a separate strike by security guards that has led to long lines at airport security control points, forced some airports to close and cut back other security services around the country. Currency transport, for example, is hit hard and retailers are urging the use of only bank and credit cards, not cash.

There have been no formal negotiations this week between the security guards’ labour organization, Norsk Arbeidsmandsforbund, and employers’ representative NHO service. Another 450 security guards were pulled off the job on Wednesday when the strike spread and the union was warning that it may spread further.

The security guards are demanding pay levels closer to what police earn, even though they don’t have the same formal education that those going through the state police academy have. They feel the responsibility they have, however, is comparable. They turned down a pay raise that many of their counterparts in another union representing security guards, Parat, has accepted.

Nearly 3,500 security guards are now on strike and their ranks may grow. While some firms employing private guards are now worrying about a lack of security, airlines SAS and Norwegian were warning they may need to cancel flights and lay off staff because of the strike that’s discouraged some passengers from flying.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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