1,200 bank workers called out on strike

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Norway’s largest trade union federation LO pulled around 1,200 bank employees off their jobs Thursday morning. Mediation that extended through the night, however, resulted in banks and insurance companies avoiding a much larger strike that could have shut down most banking services.

Offices and branches of SpareBank1 will be most affected by the strike that’s pulled 1,200 employees off the job. PHOTO: SpareBank1

The employers’ organization for the financial services industry, Finans Norge, came to terms with representatives of more than 30,000 other employees organized in the trade union federation Finansforbundet. That avoided a strike that would have immediately pulled 20,000 workers off the job and threatened to shut down many financial services.

Bank employees were angry that Norway’s highly profitable banks, which have all but forced most customers over to online banking while nonetheless imposing high fees on many transactions, have not shared profits with their workers. DNB, Norway’s biggest bank, has, for example, reported record profits and passed on a record-high dividend this year to its shareholders amounting to more than NOK 10 billion. Most banks have reported double-digit profit increases.

Employees, however, were initially offered the standard 2.8 percent pay raises agreed in other industrial sectors. DNB refused to comment, but their representatives at Finans Norge argued that wage hikes within the sector averaged 3.8 percent last year on average salaries of NOK 654,800 (USD 85,000). That figure is somewhat skewed, though, because of how lower-wage branch workers have largely been replaced by new and more highly paid technical experts.

Employee representatives at Finansforbundet reportedly were demanding raises of at least 3.1 percent this year. They also wanted temporary employees on short-term contracts to have the same pay and benefits as permanent employees, to help them secure pension rights, and more transparency regarding management’s salaries and benefits. The unions suspect managers have received much higher pay raises than other employees.

SpareBank1 to be hit the hardest
News bureau NTB reported Thursday that two hours of overtime negotiations past the midnight deadline resulted in an agreement between the roughly 32,000 employees represented by Finansforbundet and Finans Norge. “We are satisfied with the result, Finansforbundet’s leader Pål Adrian Hellman told state broadcaster NRK Thursday morning. “We prevailed with many of our economic demands and agreed with the employers to create a more future-oriented model for wage negotiations.” Hellman told NRK that the unions also secured automatic pay level increases for parents returning to work after maternity or paternity leave, to help achieve equal pay.

LO, however, did not come to terms with the employers, and its members in the finance industry went on strike as of 8am. Talks broke down over early retirement and tariff agreements that were more a matter of principle in nature.

Their strike won’t have such sweeping effects as a major walkout would have had, but it will affect banks where LO has the most members, including SpareBank1. Two offices of the bank will close in the county of Sogn og Fjordane and it likely will take longer to settle insurance claims. SR-Bank offices would also be affected along with SpareBank 1 branches around the country.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund