It only took a day, from Wednesday to Thursday, before national employers’ organization NHO and Norway’s largest trade union federation LO declared they were “too far apart” to hope for any wage agreement. Now they’ll head into mediation after the Easter holidays, but strikes loom.
The breakdown came as no surprise. “We knew when we went into negotiations that both sides are very far apart from one another,” NHO boss Ole Erik Almlid told reporters at a press conference Thursday afternoon, “That’s what these talks have also shown.” NHO isn’t offering any more than a 2.2 percent raise, which LO claims will result in a decline in members’ purchasing power. Both sides agree that prices are likely to rise by 2.8 percent this year.
“This is about money,” said LO leader Peggy Hessen Følsvik. “It’s about a general raise for everyone (LO wants at least 2.8 percent) and something extra for those who earn least.” NHO claims businesses hit hard by Corona can’t agree to that, even though many industries have been doing well and Norway’s economy is expected to rebound quickly when all Norwegians are vaccinated.
The two sides could have kept talking until a midnight deadline, in an effort to come to terms. They clearly felt that would be a waste of time. Many union members are bracing for strikes, unless the state mediator manages to prod more money out of NHO, or pare LO’s demands.