‘Business as usual’ as strike talks go on

Bookmark and Share

All-night labour negotiations dragged into the early morning hours on Monday, as negotiators for hundreds of thousands of public sector employees in Norway failed to agree on settlements but kept trying. State and local government workers were finally told, just before 7am, to go to work as usual.

That means schools, day care centers, nursing homes, NAV state welfare offices and a long list of other public sector institutions and services would remain open and operate at least through Monday. Threatened strikes may still be called from Tuesday.

Nearly 11,000 state workers were poised to strike in labour action that still could affect police, prison guards, customs and tax office services. NAV offices and defense forces would also be affected, with trade union federations LO and YS threatening to call members off the job nationwide.

Another 30,000 local government workers around the country, including teachers and day care workers, were also ready to strike if their demands weren’t met. Teachers seemed especially frustrated heading into the final round of marathon negotiations during the weekend that were supposed to face a midnight deadline on Sunday.

Confusion reigned Monday morning as mediators attempted to sum up negotiations and present proposals for settlements to union federations LO, Unio, YS and Akademikerne representing local government workers. Terms remained unclear and the trade unions needed more time to go through the details of not just proposed pay raises (expected to be around 3.3 to 3.5 percent) but also many other factors related to compensation, benefits and working conditions.

This year’s labour negotiations are categorized as a hovedoppgjør, or general settlement, meaning that not only salary issues are on the table. Representatives for both sides, employers and workers, can raise all sorts of other work issues and that’s what’s heightened the threat of a teachers’ strike. The teachers have been objecting, for example, to proposed changes in curriculum.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund