Overtime mediation averted strike

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Norway’s labour federations LO and YS came to terms with national employers’ organization NHO at around 3am on Monday, after three hours of mediation in overtime that ultimately averted a major strike. Their agreement provides modest pay raises across the board, plus a special wage boost for lowest-paid union members.

All parts involved claimed they were satisfied with the settlement prodded along by national mediator Kari Gjesteby. She was largely given credit for preventing around 17,000 workers in a variety of sectors from walking off the job at 6am. The threatened strike would have disrupted everything from airline traffic to public transport, shipyard operations and beer deliveries.

‘Reasonable and fair’
“We think this is a responsible and fair result,” LO boss Roar Flåthen told news bureau NTB. He said it took into consideration the need to protect jobs and employers’ concerns while also securing purchasing power among union members and giving those earning the least an “extra lift.”

The settlement calls for an across-the-board raise (generalt tillegg) of NOK 0.75 per (USD 0.13) per hour plus an extra NOK 1.40 to the lower-paid workers including many in the hotel, restaurant and cleaning businesses, for example. Jorunn Berland of the YS labour federation also called it “a responsible settlement” that recognized the competitive concerns of Norwegian employers already faced with some of the highest labour costs in the world.

The mid-term settlement is said to “refine” last year’s pay deals and keeps average raises at around 3.4 percent. LO’s Flåthen stressed that’s “well within” the prognoses set by Norway’s central bank, the finance ministry and state statistics bureau SSB for keeping the Norwegian economy on track.

Need for moderation ‘understood’
Kristin Skogen Lund, chief executive of the employers’ organization NHO, also seemed pleased with the settlement, saying she was glad “that we received understanding for the need for moderation.”

Lund called the wage agreement “sensible in regards to the economic situation” but continues to worry that Norwegian labour costs are high at a time when export markets are threatened by crisis in Europe and other countries. Many business and economic analysts have worried that Norway, where the oil-fed economy has remained strong and workers have high expectations, is pricing itself out of the market.

Lund nonetheless said the settlement provided “a good foundation for lower overall wage growth than what we’ve seen in recent years.” Reducing wage growth, her members believe, is critical for maintaining their competitiveness.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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