Labour Minister Anniken Hauglie of the Conservative Party felt compelled on Tuesday to order compulsory arbitration in a wage conflict between private health care firms and striking nurses. That will also halt a lockout Wednesday that would have prohibited all nurses at targeted facilities from going to work.
The national nurses’ union (Norsk Sykepleierforbund) had only initially pulled 55 nurses off the job at seven health care institutions. Up to another 500 were poised to eventually be pulled out as well but then the national employers’ organization NHO, representing the companies running the nursing homes and health care centers warned of the lockout. It would have literally locked out the non-striking nurses from their jobs as well and is used by employers to force a wage settlement when they can argue that an ongoing strike would endanger life and health.
Hauglie received a report Tuesday from the state health care regulatory agency (Helsetilsynet) that concluded that life and health would immediately be threatened if the lockout was imposed. Now the two sides will be forced into a wage settlement to end the confict.
“The two sides should have been able to settle this themselves,” Hauglie told state broadcaster NRK Tuesday afternoon. The nurses refused to back down and stood by their demands for pay hikes for their lowest-paid colleagues. Now it’s up to NHO to come with a new wage offer.