Just after right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in Norway’s worst atrocity since World War II, union chief Arne Johannessen started work on negotiating compensation deals for the 655 officers who had to return to work, newspaper Aftenposten reports.
“The most important goal was to mobilize as many police officers as possible. And then it was important that anyone who cut short their holiday didn’t end up with extra costs. In times of crisis, the normal rules do not apply to the extreme situation in which one is working,” Johannessen told the paper.
Five days after the July 22nd attacks, police authorities sent a report to the government in which the labour group said it would in future advise its members not to break off their vacation for a crisis unless they were guaranteed full overtime pay from the moment they had to leave their holiday destination.
“I don’t know if it was the 22nd, 23rd or 24rd, but we raised this very quickly,” said Johannessen.
News of the report has prompted outrage across the political spectrum. Labour Party secretary Raymond Johansen described as “shocking” the move by the union, Politiets Fellesforbund, to push for better pay at the height of a national crisis.
“It’s shocking and shameful if it’s true that the police union made demands and entered into negotiations about compensation in the days after July 22nd,” Johansen told Aftenposten.
Dozens of members of the Labour Party’s youth organization were killed when Breivik gunned down 69 people on Utøya island shortly after setting off a car bomb outside government offices in Oslo, killing eight.
Per Sandberg (Progress Party), the head of the parliament’s justice committee, was also appalled and said the union would find it “a major challenge to get the Norwegian people to understand” why it would consider telling police officers not to work in the midst of a national emergency.
The Conservative Party’s deputy leader Bent Høie also criticized the union, and said anyone involved in the crisis should have been confident that their work would be generously rewarded at a later point.