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Monday, March 4, 2024

Major strikes loom from Sunday

Nearly 23,000 workers at hundreds of companies nationwide may be called out on strike from Sunday, if mediation fails between Norway’s large trade union federations LO and YS and employers’ organization NHO. The mediation session begins Friday morning, with a settlement deadline set for midnight Saturday, even though that can be extended.

Labour union members all over Norway may be walking off the job and putting on yellow strike vests next week. PHOTO: Fellesforbundet

“We always have a goal of reaching an agreement, but we are well-prepared for a strike,” stated LO leader Peggy Hessen Følsvik in a press release late Tuesday afternoon.

A total of 22,947 members of labour unions in the various federations comprising LO and YS have been singled out in the first phase of a strike that would become most noticeable from Monday (April 17). Members at ferry companies, delivery firms and other businesses working on Sunday would be pulled off the job first.

The strike can expand quickly, to a total of 185,000 workers at NHO-organized businesses. LO and YS are determined to secure increased purchasing power for their members, after years of declines in which pay raises fell below the cost of living.

Workers want their ‘piece of the cake’
“A majority of workers have experienced that prices have risen higher than their pay … and this development must stop,” Følsvik repeated on Tuesday. “We shall have our share of the cake,” she added, especially at a time when many of Norway’s largest companies have logged record-high earnings and executive compensation has risen by as much as 20 percent. Huge bonuses for senior management have also irritated the labour sector.

Wage negotiaions between LO and NHO fell apart after a just a few days late last month, forcing the two sides into negotiations with the state mediator that begin on Friday. Pay is the only issue on the agenda this year.

Inflation hits 6.5 percent
The situation was further complicated on Tuesday when state statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway) released figures showing that the annual inflation rate hit 6.5 percent in March, while core inflation (adjusted for energy rates) rose again to 6.2 percent. That’s way above the central bank’s goal of just 2 percent and even higher than LO’s demand for at least 5 percent in order to boost purchasing power.

LO released its list of all companies targeted (external link) in the first wave of a strike, and they range from retailers like IKEA to breweries including Ringnes, Aass and Hansa Borg, to food and begerage producers, construction companies (PEAB, Skanska, NCC and more), transport firms including Bring Cargo and ferry lines (Fjord 1, Torghatten Nord, Norled and more), car firms like Møller Bil and Toyota, and various branches of oil companies including Aker Solutions.

While Følsvik claimed it was “disappointing” that NHO wouldn’t meet workers’ demands, NHO boss Ole Erik Almlid responded that “we can’t end up with a settlement that will harm companies’ competitiveness and ability to create to new jobs. Unfortunately we were so far apart from one another (in their demands) that it was natural to ask the state mediator for help.”

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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