Strike expands as meetings drag on

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Representatives for striking Norwegian teachers and their local government employers continued to sound each other out during a new meeting on Thursday, but there was no settlement after they adjourned in the afternoon. They did agree, though, to meet again on Friday after another 2,200 teachers walked off the job.

Teachers all over Norway continued to strike on Thursday, in even greater numbers. PHOTO: Utdanningsforbundet

Teachers all over Norway continued to strike on Thursday, in even greater numbers. PHOTO: Utdanningsforbundet

The Norwegians are using the word sondering to describe their talks, meaning they’re not actually negotiating but simply trying to find some common ground. The use of the word prompted several commentators to report that the two sides are still far apart. After some renewed optimism earlier this week, when employers’ organization KS indicated they were ready to make a new offer, progress seemed to stall once again because KS was slow to invite for a new meeting.

Meanwhile, the strike that already was affecting 132 schools around the country expanded as planned on Thursday when another 2,200 teachers at 69 more schools joined their striking colleagues. That means nearly 8,000 teachers aren’t teaching at the end of what was supposed to be the first week of the new school year. The strike is also now affecting elementary schools, which had been shielded earlier.

The teachers are angry, give no indication they’ll go along with KS’ demand for more regulated work hours and warn that the strike can be lengthy unless KS withdraws the demand. The unions for the teachers, like those for most workers in Norway, have a fairly solid strike fund that’s paying them when the local governments won’t. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that the municipalities have already saved more than NOK 125 million on the strike.

It was a savings of public tax revenues, though, that they didn’t want and everyone seems to want the strike to end. The two sides remain close to being deadlocked but state officials can only step in if they determine there to be a danger to life and health. They’re not at that point yet.

Neither side would comment on what topics were discussed Thursday or offer any status report. They did say that talks would continue on Friday. All of them left the meeting at KS’ office in downtown Oslo by using back doors, to avoid meeting teachers and reporters on the street.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund