Strike threatened at Vinmonopolet

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Workers at Norway’s state-run liquor chain Vinmonopolet have threatened to go on strike in response to a government proposal to open the stores during some holiday periods. As they headed into collective bargaining negotiations on Monday, staff said they would not give away extra holidays written into their agreement including Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, Easter Saturday, Whitsund (pinse) and election day.

Norway's state-controlled stores selling alcoholic beverages reflect restrictive policies but retain support among the public, not least for their large selection, information and customer service. PHOTO: Wikipedia

Norway’s state-controlled stores selling alcoholic beverages have limited opening hours. The government wants to “modernize” Norway’s alcohol laws and open Vinmonopolet stores on five days when liquor sales are currently banned, but unions said the days were written into staff wage agreements and they wouldn’t give them up. PHOTO: Wikipedia

Finance Minister Siv Jensen called it a “modernization” of alcohol laws when she proposed more opening hours in January. If the state and Trade and Office union (Handel og Kontor) failed to reach an agreement on Monday, the case would go to state mediation, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

“Then the danger of conflict is great,” said union leader Trine Lise Sundnes. “The employer itself during the governmental consultation on the proposal has been clear that it is not profitable to be open on these days. I hope the employer’s side comes to its senses.”

Sundnes said it was strange that staff were having to negotiate on the changed working hours before Jensen’s proposal had even been approved by Parliament. The proposal was still under consultation, but NRK reported a parliamentary majority supported the changes. “What’s special with their offer is that they want to negotiate away the days in the collective agreement before any amendment is a reality,” she said. “We have never experienced this.”

Anne Kari Bretten from the employer’s organization Spekter said the possible amendment had to be included in the negotiations, because it was two years before the next wage settlement. “By all appearances, Parliament is going to adopt this amendment,” she said. “As responsible parties we must discuss the challenges which lie ahead of us.” Bratten said she was hopeful an agreement could be reached on Monday. Woodgate