Another lengthy and forced mediation session between state railway NSB and the union representing striking locomotive engineers broke down late Thursday night. That means a train strike that began more than a month ago was due to drag on.
National mediator Dag Stousland confirmed to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the two sides walked out on each other at 10:15pm. An estimated 20,000 commuters thus faced another rough morning getting to work on Friday.
The employers’ organization Spekter, which represents NSB, called the breakdown of mediation “extremely sad for NSB passengers.” The union has demanded that competence standards be inserted into the engineers’ labour contract. NSB refuses to do so, and government officials have also said that competence standards are a matter for national authorities to determine, not labour unions.
“As long as the Lokomotivmannsforbundet demands that they will be the ones to decide over competence standards … it’s not possible to reach an agreement that will settle the strike,” Spekter’s chief executive Anne-Kari Bratten stated in a press release Thursday night.
Union leader Rolf Ringdal claimed they’re no longer demanding that competence standards be a part of their actual labour contract “but we want a commitment to it until the authorities come out with central rules.” State officials say national standards already exist and they don’t understand what the union’s problem is.
The strike is now in its fifth week with no end in sight, unless Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen invokes the state’s right to force strikers back to work. He’s been reluctant to do so, claiming that the state railway and the union need to settle their differences themselves.
The state normally only intervenes in strikes that put life and health in danger. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) noted on Thursday, however, that the state can also halt strikes if they put “vital community interests” at risk.
Many argue that applies to the cancellation of more than 300 trains a day, while sympathy with the union seems to be waning. “The strike has lasted for four weeks, that’s enough now,” editorialized DN. “It is of vital interest that people manage to get to work.”