Strike threat looms Monday

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Ferries, flights, other forms of public transport, shipyards and even supplies of beer and soft drinks will be disrupted next week, if nearly 20,000 members of various unions around Norway are called out on strike. Bus service in the Oslo area, for example, will be halted from early Monday if mediation fails over the weekend.

Ferries including those that run between Oslo and the Nesodden peninsula across the Oslo Fjord will likely stop running if labour mediation fails over the weekend. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Ferries including those that run between Oslo and the Nesodden peninsula across the Oslo Fjord will likely stop running if labour mediation fails over the weekend. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Norway’s national mediator (riksmegler) Kari Gjesteby faces a deadline of midnight Sunday to reach agreements between national employers’ organization NHO and Norwegian labour federations LO and YS.

Both LO and YS have coordinated which f their unions will be called out on strike if they don’t come to terms with NHO. Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Thursday, that labour organizations with YS, for example, can disrupt operations at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen, which in turn would disrupt flights around the country. Fuel delivery will also be disrupted around southeastern Norway.

Newspaper Dagsavisen, meanwhile, reported that bus companies Unibuss and Nobina are both targeted in a prospective strike. Since Unibuss supplies the buses that provide around 70 percent of bus service in and around Oslo, commuters will face major problems getting to work and the entire public transport system will be severely affected.

Fully 27 plants belonging to 12 breweries and drinks producers, including Coca-Cola and Hansa, have once again landed on the labour federations’ lists. That means that in the event of a strike, production and distribution of beer and soft drinks can stop. Several shipyards are also on the unions’ lists, with Aibel, Ulstein, Kleven, STX and Bergen Group targeted.

Wage hike conflict
LO broke off negotiations with NHO just before last week’s Easter holidays, after NHO offered just half of the wage hikes LO was seeking, especially for its lowest-paid members. They entered into voluntary mediation this week but talks broke down on Wednesday.

Now state mediator Gjesteby needs to find a compromise by midnight on Sunday. Mediation often extends beyond such deadlines, but the labour organizations threaten a strike from 5am Monday.

It remained unclear how eager the labour organizations and members are to follow through with their strike threat. Mid-term negotiations such as this year’s, where unions and employers “adjust” agreements reached in main negotiations the year before, have often ended without strikes, noted newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). Both sides, not least the Labour-led government seeking re-election in September, want to avoid another hostile wave of strikes like those which flared up last year. Several other sets of negotiations will also follow LO’s and YS’ dealings with NHO, so they’re likely to set the tone.

Gesteby said mediation would resume on Saturday.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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