Teachers’ unions around Norway are moving forward with plans to massively expand a strike that officially began on a small scale in Bergen in June. They won’t say, however, exactly who will be called off the job or where, and won’t reveal which schools are targeted until just before school starts the week of August 18.
“Those of us on the strike committee in Utdanningsforbundet (the national teachers’ union federation) have decided on a date (to expand the strike) and it will be around the time schools are due to reopen,” said Kolbjørg Ødegaard of the labour federation.
“We will start on a relatively large scale, with teachers taken off the job in all areas of the country,” Ødegaard told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). Teachers in Oslo, however, are not involved in the strike because their union negotiated separately with their city employers and reached a settlement last spring.
The national teachers’ organizations also initially settled with the municipal employers’ organization KS, but the settlement was rejected by the rank and file when they voted on it in June. Teachers are furious, among other things, that the municipalities want to impose more regimented work hours on them that would require more physical presence on school grounds. They want to maintain flexible work hours and continue to take work home with them, instead of having to remain at school for 7.5 hours every day.
Sabre-rattling is expected to continue in the weeks leading up to the strike expansion start, with a teachers’ strike threatening to severely disrupt the start of the new term and create great uncertainty for working parents. Norway’s largest national trade union confederation LO demanded that KS find a solution to the strike, after a regularly scheduled mediation attempt failed earlier this week.
DN reported the teachers will announce strike details four days before school starts unless a settlement is reached before then. A strike is also expected to affect the teachers’ planning days that they work before students show up in the classroom.
Around 90,000 teachers are members of the labour organizations Utdanningsforbundet and Norsk Lektorlag. DN reported that no new mediation sessions are planned until August 11-12, but state mediator Nils Dalseide stressed that he was standing by and ready to help broker a settlement if called upon to do so before then.
The government can step in and halt a strike but usually only does so in strikes that are declared as posing a risk to life and health. They may also step in, though, if the school strikes are determined to have grave consequences for their communities.