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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Troubled Labour led Labour Day parade

UPDATED: Oslo’s Labour Party led Monday’s traditional Labour Day parade in the Norwegian capital on the 1st of May, along with its city government partners in the Greens and Socialist Left parties. There were few embattled national leaders to be seen in the Norwegian capital, as they tried to drum up support in the country’s outlying areas.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre spent the day, for example, trying to win more support in small towns around Lake Mjøsa. There’s no doubt Labour is suffering, also in Oslo where voters have been hit with double-digit increases in property taxes and municipal fees as elder care and other services decline. City leaders (from left) Sunniva Holmås Eidsvoll of the Socialist Left Party, Raymond Johnsen of Labour and Sirin Stav of the Greens Party (far right) clutched flowers as they defied rain and sleet in what appeared to be an event to help launch their re-election campaign ahead of September’s local elections. Joining them on the front line was Labour’s new “wonder boy” Usman Ahmad Mushtaq (second from right), who hasn’t won any elections but been appointed as the new head of labour, integration and social services in Oslo. He’s expected to play a key role in the upcoming local election this fall, when Labour, the Greens and SV will seek re-election for a third term against heavy odds.

Meanwhile, the annual Labour Day parade also put up with bad weather to front all sorts of causes dear to the hearts of left-leaning Norwegians. This group was making another attempt to drum up support for Oslo’s largest Hospital, Ullevål sykehus, and halt a hugely expensive state project to close it down in favour of building a big new hospital “that nobody wants,” as one locally famous actress has implored. The banner here appeals to Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol of the Labour Party and Prme Minister Støre to “finally listen and dump plans for the new hospital now.” The group trying to “save Ullevål sykehus” has now sued the state in an effort to halt the unpopular and expensive project.

Traditional Labour Day parades in Norway always include marching bands and lots of singing of the labour anthem called Internasjonalen. This group of marching band veterans didn’t disappoint. It was also time for some uplifting music in a springtime marred by Russia’s war on Ukraine, high inflation and strikes, one of which was settled just before the long Labour Day holiday weekend began. More loomed, but news broke throughout the weekend that most groups had settled for pay raises at least as high as the 5.2 percent won earlier, and 5.4 percent for many municipal workers. Union leaders were pleased and claimed the settlements reflect the sort of solidarity on display at Monday’s parades.

There were also a few groups out marching against Norway’s oil and gas industry, like this group of authors who are ashamed over how Norway has generated so many emissions over the years. Environmental groups and climate organizations also want to curtail ongoing oil exploration and production, but all of Norway’s major parties on both the left and right want to keep pumping. Money and job creation are almost always deemed more important than climate concerns, especially in oil nations like Norway.

There were also groups out marching in favour of new government regulations that promote permanent- over temporary employment. This woman’s sign champions full-time (heltid) positions over part-time, and the extra job security that implies. The current Labour-Center government is phasing in new rules that make it much more difficult for employers to hire temporary staff except for bid- and project-based work.

Still topping most of the political, social and welfare issues that characterize May Day in Norway is support for Ukraine. It’s the one issue on which all parties in the Norwegian Parliament agree, now also involving more weapons sales and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and utter condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago. Similar displays of support for Ukraine took place all over the country, in conjunction with May Day parades.

ALL PHOTOS: NewsinEnglish.no/Morten Møst

TEXT: NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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