Major strikes averted in public sector

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UPDATED: All-night labour negotiations ended Monday morning with settlements for both state and local government workers in Norway. The local government workers settled first, followed by their counterparts at the state level, fending off the threat of strikes by thousands of public sector workers.

After eight hours of negotiations in overtime that lasted through the night, negotiators for thousands of local government employees nationwide agreed to a proposed settlement Monday morning. That means schools, day care centers and nursing homes will remain open, and a host of other local government services will operate as usual.

Representatives for around 50,000 employees of the City of Oslo negotiate separately, and they had already postponed any strike action until Tuesday, in order to see whether their colleagues in other Norwegian municipalities would agree to a settlement proposed after Sunday’s midnight strike deadline. They did, and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Monday morning that the Oslo employees were now expected to settle as well.

Teachers stay on the job
Teachers employed by muncipalities were among those ready to go on strike Monday, but finally were given the message that won’t be necessary. Their negotiators characterized the mediation on national radio as “demanding and complicated, with many difficult elements,” but told NRK the settlement is in line with those agreed in other major labour negotiations earlier this year, the so-called frontfag agreements.

“We will recommend the result, seen from an overall perspective,” Erik Kollerud, negotiations leader for trade union federation YS Kommune, stated in a press release. Kollerud claimed negotiators had secured “real pay development” and that competence will be rewarded.

Details remained sketchy, but the union federation Akademikere also claimed they negotiated “a good settlement” for members. Pay raises were set at 3.3 percent and as much as 5 percent in some cases, and teachers would accept new demands that they spend more time at school instead of taking work home with them.

State settlement followed
Mediation continued between representatives for the state and around 11,000 state employees who were threatening strikes within the police, prisons, customs service and tax offices. A strike would also have disrupted social welfare services from state welfare agency NAV along with some portions of Norway’s defense forces.

NRK reported that Jan Tore Sanner, the state government minister in charge of negotiations, confirmed a settlement at the state level as well. There will be no changes in pay systems, claimed union negotiators, and workers will receive pay raises averaging 3.3 percent.

The state and local settlements were agreed after more than eight hours of overtime talks that extended past strike deadlines of midnight Sunday.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund