Representatives for Norwegian teachers headed into a new attempt at mediation with the local government employers group (KS) that began Monday, when another 5,500 teachers were called off the job. Two teachers in Stavanger were among those demanding that their union representatives “stay tough,” and refuse demands that they physically stay on school grounds for at least 7.5 hours a day.
“If we give in now, KS will only come with even more demands next time,” teacher Ketil Nøkleby Andersen told state broadcaster NRK. He and his colleagues in Stavanger claimed their “fighting spirit” was high, while newspaper Dagsavisen reported Tuesday that the teachers were prepared for a long strike.
While teachers in Oslo settled contested work issues last spring and are preparing as usual for the start of school next week, thousands of other teachers around the country are unhappy over what they see as a lack of confidence from their employers and, most importantly, a looming loss of flexible work hours. They prefer to prepare for classes at home or when it best suits them, instead of being required to remain on campus. They also argue that the sheer lack of office space for teachers is expected to cost millions to build and should be unnecessary.
The strike currently affects 132 schools from Alta in the north to Kristiansand in the south. Thousands more teachers are likely to be called out to join the picket lines if no solution is found, affecting scores of more schools.
KS confirmed over the weekend that the organization had not passed on any new mandate to its negotiators. It’s now up to state mediator Nils Dalseide to try to ward off disruption to the start of the new school year, and he called in both the teachers’ union representatives and those for KS for a new round of talks late Monday afternoon.
Dalseide said he was “optimistic” heading into the talks, which were described as “informal conversations.” The idea, Dalseide told reporters, was to gauge whether there were grounds to resume formal mediation.
A representative for the teachers said later on Monday night that the tone between the two sides was “good” and that “we’re talking,” but no immediate results were forthcoming.