Air traffic controllers threaten strike

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Norwegian airports may once again be hit by disruption if air traffic controllers go through with a threatened strike late next week. A strike would force a major reduction in take-offs and landings all over the country.

Newspaper Stavanger Aftenbladet reports that negotiations broke down between the labour organization representing air traffic controllers (Norsk Flygelederforening, NFF) and employers’ organization Spekter. It’s representing the aviation authority Avinor, which runs Norway’s airports.

Pay dispute
The breakdown in talks reportedly was based on disagreement over pay raises. The air traffic controllers rejected an offer that was similar to those accepted by other Avinor employees organized in unions tied to national labour federation LO.

“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t manage to agree, despite an offer with the same framework made to other employee groups in Avinor,” said the negotiations leader for Spekter, Anne-Kari Bratten.

NRR chairman Robert Gjønnes confirmed on NFF’s website that negotiations broke down between NFF and Spekter “because of disagreement on the total (package), with emphasis on the social profile.” He declined further comment.

Mediator to take over
Now the dispute between the air traffic controllers and Avinor will head for mediation but it was unclear when that might begin. Gunnar Larsen, communications director for Spekter, said it “normally” takes two weeks before mediation begins. Since talks officialy broke down on June 14, mediation likely wouldn’t begin until June 28.

“The timing depends on when the mediator is available to meet the two sides,” Larsen told Aftenbladet.

If mediation doesn’t succeed, a strike could be called at the end of June or early July, right when many Norwegians take off on traditional summer holidays in July.

Sudden rise in sick leave
There already have been some delays in airline traffic blamed on a sudden rise in the number of air traffic controllers calling in sick to their station at Røyken in Buskerud. It serves as the main control base for eastern Norway, and subsequent delays especially affected travel to and from Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen late last week. Airports between Molde and Haugesund were also affected.

Bratten of Spektrum said the employers’ organization had no evidence the rise in sick leave was connected to the unsuccessful negotiations. She said she expected the air traffic controllers to adhere to rules governing labour negotiations.

Traffic through Norwegian airports was disrupted earlier this month when security guards walked off the job, also in a dispute over pay. They were eventually ordered back to work by the Norwegian labour minister after a week of long lines at security checkpoints and the forced closure of some airports.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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