The threatened effects of a nationwide teachers’ strike still loom large over Norway, and with the first day of school just a few weeks away, the country’s largest trade union confederation (LO) is demanding a settlement. Talks with a state mediator on Monday were fruitless.
LO’s deputy leader, Tor-Arne Solbakken, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Tuesday that the teachers’ union and the municipal employers’ organization KS (Kommunenes Sentralforbund) need to come to terms this week. Otherwise, Solbakken warned, thousands of school children and school staff will face a chaotic start to the new term.
“We’re getting closer and closer to the start of school and to the time that the strike is really going to be expanded,” Solbakken told NRK. He noted that the strike, which officially started with one school in Bergen in June, has proceeded “peacefully” since school was already out for the summer holidays. Now, with teachers all over the country due to walk off the job, the fall term is threatened.
Schools in Oslo will remain open since their teachers’ union negotiates separately and accepted more regimented school days as proposed by KS. Others haven’t, demanding that teachers be allowed to continue to work flexible hours and take work home with them instead of being required to stay on the schoolgrounds for at least 7.5 hours a day.
“In order for the two sides to find a solution, the work on finding one must begin now,” Solbakken stressed. He put the responsibility for initiating a solution squarely on KS, although KS believes the labour organizations need to take the initiative.
KS officials declined immediate comment on Solbakken’s challenge. The failure of KS and the teachers union (Utdanningsforbundet) to agree on new talks on Monday raised the danger of schools being closed when schools are supposed to reopen during the third week of August.
Teachers’ union leader Ragnhild Lied was also tight-lipped, but claimed that all six-year-olds who are supposed to be starting school for the first time “will be well-received” on their first day, even if they have to turn around and go home again.