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Thursday, October 6, 2022

Teachers’ strike spreads again

Another 3,000 teachers walked out of their classrooms in Norway this week, as a strike over pay and a lack of fully credentialed teachers spread nationwide. A state mediator said the conflict between the teachers’ unions and the municipalities employing them appears to be deadlocked.

Striking teachers tried to keep their spirits up at the local metro station in Bekkestua in Bærum on Tuesday. Their T-shirts sent out the message that if Norway is to invest in its students, it must also invest in its teachers. PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no/Morten Møst

There were no immediate plans for a new round of mediation. Neither the teachers’ unions (Utdanningsforbundet, Skolenes Landsforbund and Norsk Lektorlag) nor the organization representing the municipalities (KS) appear willing to budge.

Hundreds of teachers rallied outside Parliament in Oslo on Monday and picket lines expanded. Steffen Handal, leader of Utdanningsforbundet, said the near-doubling of teachers pulled off the job “shows the seriousness of the situation” as the strikers’ numbers swelled from around 3,500 to 6,500. The two smaller unions have each put around 40 members on strike.

‘No willingness’ to settle
“KS (the employers’ organization) has rejected all of our alternatives for a solution,” Handal told news bureau NTB on Monday. “There’s simply no willingness to find a way out of this strike.” KS countered that it has presented “concrete and constructive proposals that should be able to contribute to settling this strike. We want a solution, so that everyone can come back to school.”

Schools in Bergen and the Oslo suburb of Bærum were affected the most this week, with teachers there acounting for the largest  numbers of those on strike. Schools in Trondheim and Bryne outside Stavanger were also called out on strike for the first time since the strike began in June.

Only first-grade teachers are being entirely shielded, but the strike is affecting junior-high- and high schools the most. It comes just as schools were fully reopening after the pandemic, raising special concerns over how their students are being affected. Many miss both the educational and social aspects of being in the classroom, and parents are calling for a settlement.

‘Nothing more to give’
KS leaders have repeatedly claimed that they “have nothing more to give.” The teachers, meanwhile, are demanding higher pay on the grounds they’ve fallen behind in recent years when compared to other groups. The striking teachers’ unions want teachers with the highest education levels and seniority to be paid the most. They’re not accepting raises of 3.84 percent granted to others in the local public sector that amounted to between NOK 12,000 and 16,800 a year in higher pay.

Handal said he believes KS is speculating that the government will order the teachers back to work, on the grounds the strike is affecting the mental health of students. KS notes that teachers in Oslo settled earlier this year and are not on strike, and objects that teachers in other cities demand more. Those cities include Haugesund, Arendal, Bodø, Lillestrøm, Molde, Porsgrunn, Tromsø, Gjøvik, Harstad, Steinkjer and Stjørdal.

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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