35,000 poised to go out on strike

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Norwegians may be wise to get their hair cut, stock up on bread, wine and coffee, and brace for bus and ferry chaos next week. Hair salons, bakeries and transport firms are just some of the private sector businesses targeted in a national strike that will begin from Sunday April 8, if employers’ and workers’ organizations fail to agree on new contracts by midnight on Sunday.

As many as 35,000 workers in Norway may be called off the job next week at a wide variety of private-sector companies all over the country. PHOTO: LO

Mediation begins on Wednesday between the national employers’ organization NHO and trade union federations LO and YS. Their own contract talks broke down last month, leading to mandatory sessions with the state mediator (Riksmekleren).

The danger of a massive national strike involving as many as 35,000 workers is real, according to both sides on Tuesday. They’re all back from the respite of the Easter holidays, and geared for battle if necessary.

This year’s negotiations are known as a hovedoppgjør, meaning they cover not only wages but all other aspects of labour contracts. Pensions pose the biggest bone of contention, but there’s also disagreement over NHO’s demand that pay hikes can’t exceed 2.7 percent. Organizations involved in the collective bargaining are also at odds over compensation for employees’ travel costs if they’re sent out on assignments.

The first wave of negotiations involves the private sector, covering current contracts between NHO and 28,900 employees who are members of LO unions and another 6,000 employees organized through YS. The main branches targeted include bus companies, food producers, media and ferry transport firms.

Commuters vulnerable
Around 1,200 bus drivers in the Oslo area, Stavanger and Sandnes, for example, are on the lists of those who can be called off the job. So are those running ferry lines in Møre og Romsdal, Hordaland, Troms, Nordland and routes between Horten and Moss and Oslo-Nesodden.

Other workers and sectors singled out for strike action include cleaning firms, mining operations, a long list of offshore service firms and shipyards, construction firms, elevator service firms, power companies, bakeries, breweries, dairies, wine wholesalers and veterinarians.

Among companies on the lists: Toma, ISS, Aker Solutions, Skanska, Adecco, Block Watne, Aibel, Veidekke, Yara, Ekornes, Otis, Kone, Agder Energi, Nettpartner Prosjekt, Schenker, Norgesbuss, Unibuss, Bakehuset, Ringnes, Aass, Hansa Borg, Coca-Cola, Orkla Foods, Idun Industrier, Arcus, Vectura, Nikita Hair, Fjord1 and Norled.

To see the full list of companies with employees who can be called out on strike by LO, click here

To see the full list of companies with employees who can be called out on strike by YS, click here(both external links to the federations’ own documents)

The sheer scope of the potential labour action is why it’s called a storstreik (literally, a big strike), the first in 20 years. “We’re negotiating important issues for our members, and therefore we’re prepared to strike if it becomes necessary,” LO leader Hans-Christian Gabrielsen told state broadcaster NRK on Tuesday. YS leaders are also demanding “real pay growth” for its members.

“I think folks understand that it’s important to fight for good solutions for the future,” Vegard Einan, leader of YS Privat, told NRK. “But we will do what we can to avoid a big strike.”

NHO has been stressing cooperation with the unions, and their leaders are all on a first-name basis. NHO leader Kristin Skogen Lund, however, claims her members won’t accept pay hikes much above the inflation rate and they’re standing firm on controlling pension costs. If mediation fails by the Saturday night deadline, a strike will be called from 6am Sunday unless both sides agree to overtime talks.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund