Labour agreement averts mass strikes

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Norwegian industry and union groups reached an agreement on labour negotiations on Wednesday evening after marathon talks stretched into 17 hours of overtime. Unions had threatened strikes by more than 9,300 workers across 100 industrial companies if a bargain wasn’t reached. 

The deadline for industrial employers’ group Norsk Industri and major trade union federation Fellesforbundet to reach a collective agreement was midnight on Tuesday, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). The parties chose to continue negotiations under the supervision of state mediator Nils Dalseide, surpassing the 11 hours of overtime negotiations needed to reach the last major agreement two years ago.

Employers unanimously endorsed the mediator’s proposal, said Stein Lier Hansen from Norsk Industri. The parties agreed to a wage increase framework of 3.3 percent, a general increase of NOK 0.75 (USD 0.13) reported newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). The lowest paid in the textile and clothing industry would get an extra supplement of NOK 1.25. The parties also agreed to look at different sides of future pension plans, an issue that had been a sticking point throughout the negotiations.

“It was more expensive than I’d hoped for, but nevertheless there is a settlement that I can in sum still vouch for,” said Hansen. “We feel that we’ve reached a solution on the wage issue which brings the wage development in Norway down compared to what has been the norm in recent years.” Hansen warned Norwegian exporters would still struggle to remain competitive due to high salaries.

The unions were reasonably satisfied with the year’s wage settlement, and were particularly pleased with plans to look at occupational pensions in the private sector. “The study will also look at workers’ participation rights over investment and management of pension funds,” said union leader Arve Bakke.

The agreement has ramifications for other sectors of the Norwegian workforce. The week’s negotiations set the tone for other bargaining agreements that are entered into in the coming months, and provide a guide to expected wage increases in new settlements. Parat and SAFE, two other unions, also conducted their own negotiations with Fellesforbundet during the week.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate