UPDATED: Norway’s nationwide hotel strike entered its second week on Monday with nearly double the number of strikers out on the picket lines. As the strike spread over the weekend, and is set to spread again this coming weekend, it also won broad support among those out marching in Sunday’s May 1st Labour Day parades.
Union bosses announced Monday afternoon that they would call another 1,000 members out on strike from 8am Saturday morning. An additional 100 hotels and restaurants in six new counties will be targeted, with a total of nearly 7,000 workers out on the picket lines.
Hundreds of strikers wearing yellow picketers’ vests were among the roughly 10,000 people who turned out for the annual May Day rally sponsored by trade union federations in Oslo. Then they marched in the parade through the capital, as similar rallies and marches were held in other cities all over the country.
After honouring fellow workers killed in Friday’s helicopter crash with a moment of silence, the striking hotel workers dominated both the rallies and parades. Gerd Kristiansen, head of Norway’s largest trade union confederation LO, was among those giving her full support to the strikers, who have forced closure of several hotels and curtailed operations at others. The strike has also closed several company canteens, including LO’s own, and disrupted service at hundreds of restaurants.
“We’ve had to bring our own matpakker (packed lunches), but that’s fine,” Kristiansen said before holding the main speech to rev up the marchers at the rally at the public square in Oslo called Youngstorget. Kristiansen had already blasted major Norwegian hotel owner Olav Thon earlier in the week, after he claimed it was acceptable for hotel workers to earn less than industrial workers, because the work itself was less-demanding. “He can’t possibly have seen how his own maids and other hotel workers work hard every day,” Kristiansen said.
A total of around 6,000 hotel workers have now walked off the job, many also in the already economically hard-hit areas of Rogaland and Møre og Romsdal, which had been spared during the first week of the strike. That further upset officials at the national hotel employers’ organization NHO Reiseliv: “Hotels in Stavanger have already had to lay off workers and put others on furlough, because of a 35 percent decline in occupancy (caused by the oil industry slowdown),” Kristin Krohn Devold, director of NHO Reiseliv, told newspaper Dagsavisen on Saturday. “This (the strike) can cause lasting damage for hotels struggling to survive, and more people can lose their jobs.”
The union federation behind the hotel and restaurant strike, Fellesforbundet, responded by accusing NHO Reiseliv of strike-busting, with some hotels allegedly using non-union members to staff shifts they normally don’t work. Other workers were given middle-management titles that hotel employers believe made them eligible to work instead of strike.
Meanwhile, striking hotel and restaurant workers were out in force on Sunday as they refused to give up demands for higher pay for their lowest-paid colleagues. “We are marking that we’re fighting for the issues that are important for us and our colleagues,” Nhan Ton, who works at the reception desk and represents fellow employees at the Thon Hotell Opera in Oslo, told Dagsavisen. She was marching in her first May 1st parade, and added that it was especially important “when you see how much support we’re getting for our demands.”
Dolores Olaussen, representing employees at the Scandic Helsfyr hotel in Oslo, spoke at the massive rally and told news bureau NTB that since 2003, the hotel industry has expanded by more than 1.5 million overnight stays in Norway, while hotel workers’ pay has fallen from 85- to 75 percent of that earned by industrial workers. The hotel workers also want the right to negotiate pay locally, in addition to the wage settlements bargained on a national basis.