There was still no settlement in sight as Norway’s nationwide hotel and restaurant strike headed into its third week and one of the biggest holiday weekends of the year. Trade union federation Fellesforbundet, on the contrary, announced plans to pull another 50 workers off the job at four new hotels and restaurants on the 17th of May, Norway’s big Constitution Day holiday.
The new hotels and restaurants to be hit include the Radisson Blu in Haugesund, Peppes Pizza at OSL Gardermoen, Vollan Gjestestue in Troms and Sundalsøra Hotell. That will bring the number of striking hotel workers up to around 7,250.
The strike is now affecting not only overnight guests but also the many Norwegians hosting weddings and confirmation ceremonies at this time of years. May and June mark high season for formal and traditional family-oriented parties in Norway, also those linked to the major pinse and 17th of May holidays. Hotels are often used as venues for such events, and when they close, parties can be cancelled.
Kristin Krohn Devold, head of the employers’ organization NHO Reiseliv, downplayed the ill effects of the strike on such events, at least on the hotels themselves. “The most important days for the hotels is when they have both tourists and business customers,” Devold told state broadcaster NRK on Friday. She claimed that most of the hotels in her organization were intending to carry out planned arrangements, but with reduced service and reduced menus.
Guests’ spoiled plans ‘a consequence of a strike’
Devold also claimed that nearly 100,000 people work in the hotel industry and many are not on strike. Only around 23 hotels are actually closed around the country, but for guests who were supposed to be staying at those hotels, from the Thon Hotel in Kirkenes to the Radisson Blu Plaza in Oslo, the closures severely disrupt travel plans.
Disrupted weddings and other events “are a consequence of a strike,” Vidar Grønli of Fellesforbundet told NRK. While both sides lamented the effects on “innocent third-parties” like hotel and restaurant guests, Grønli claimed that “we believe the employers have had all opportunity to come to terms with us.”
He admitted that the union has now spread the strike nearly to its maximum effect, by pulling all union members off the job. Since the strike began, however, the union federation has received around 800 new members, and they can also be called out eventually. Devold claimed there was “daily contact” between both sides in the conflict over higher wages for the lowest-paid workers and the right to negotiate locally, but she couldn’t predict when there might be a settlement.
Meanwhile, one major hotel unaffected by the strike because it’s affiliated with another employers’ organization in Norway, could report brisk business and a record year last year. The posh Hotel Continental in Oslo, the only Norwegian member of the Leading Hotels of the World, recorded both record revenues in 2015 (up 24.8 percent to NOK 251 million) and operating profits (NOK 34.7 million, compared to a loss in 2014.) “And this year is looking even better,” hotel owner Elisabeth C Brochmann told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) this week.
She doesn’t like to think the hotel is profiting on the strike, which has hit some of Continental’s main rivals. “Clearly we’ve received some extra guests right now, but I expect that will be short-lived,” Brochmann, whose great-grandparents founded the hotel across the street from Oslo’s National Theater, told DN.
Brochmann also said her hotel and its popular Theatercaféen restaurant don’t seem affected by the downturn in the oil business either. “As of April, revenues are running NOK 6 million higher than last year and the summer season also looks positive,” she said, “so 2016 will be even better than 2015.”