Norwegian ends free tickets as strike begins

Norwegian Air Shuttle has stripped its cabin staff of one of the main perks of the job -- free airline tickets -- in retaliation for a strike announced on Wednesday.

Norwegian ends free tickets as strike begins
René Gustavsen, the Norwegian cabin steward who on Wednesday began a one-man strategic strike. Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum / NTB scanpix
Cabin Services Norway, which took over the company's Norwegian cabin staff in March, sent out a text message to all staff on Friday, according to Tønsberg Blad newspaper. 
The message informed them that the system of "ID-tickets",  on which cabin staff previously only had to pay tax, had been terminated with immediate effect.
"This is a consequence of the employees going on strike," Norwegian's head of information Lasse Sandakerveien-Nielsen told the paper. "We have to take action and it is not uncommon to do this when there is a conflict. This is something that Parat and The Cabin Crew Association knew would come if there was conflict." 
The punishment makes good a message the airline sent out by text message on Tuesday night, warning employees they would lose free tickets, be forced to relocate to Oslo, and, in the case of Danish employees, be transferred to an employment agency, thereby losing much of their job security. 
Parat, the Norwegian union coordinating the strike action, on Thursday afternoon accused the airline of "brutalisation" of its staff, in a release. 
"We don’t want to see brutalisation such as we are witnessing here in either the Norwegian or the European labour market," Turid Svendsen, the union's chief negotiator, said in a press statement on Thursday afternoon.
"We believe that this type of intimidation by the company is in violation of agreements signed between the company and the union, because this is regarded as an action aimed at avoiding a strike and affecting the outcome of a conflict of interest." 
Parat said it was coordinating with the European Transport Workers' Federation, which brings together unions from across 41  European countries and the ITF, which has five million members inn 150 countries, to try and prevent Norwegian bringing in temporary staff from other countries to replace striking workers. 
"The airline has announced measures to maintain flights in the case of a strike, and Parat regards this action as blacklegging," it wrote in its statement. 
It also warned that the airline was in danger of causing a major strike which could affect flights across Europe. 
"The Norwegian airline with the same name is in danger of being thrown into a comprehensive strike by its cabin crew in Norway and Denmark within a short period of time," Parat warned. 
"The airline…is accused of treating its employees with little respect, while attempting to crush the union that currently organises most of its employees in Scandinavia." 
At present just one member of Norwegian's staff, René Gustavsen, is on strike, but a further 1,300 staff are expected to join him within the next 18 days. 

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Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday 

Find out what’s going on in Norway on Thursday with The Local’s short roundup of important news.

Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday 
Oslo Operahus. Photo by Arvid Malde on Unsplash

Strikes could affect vulnerable children 

Municipal strikes among teachers and nurses could impact vulnerable children, the children’s ombudsmen has said. 

“I am concerned about the overall consequences that the strike and the pandemic may have on children and young people. The students bear a disproportionately large part of the burden, which increases each passing day,” Inga Bejer Engh, children’s ombud, told press agency NTB. 

Municipal workers have been on strike since last week when mediation talks between union Unio and municipalities over wage settlements broke down. 

Cases of Delta Covid variant detected in Trondheim

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“We have done a partial genome sequencing and have identified 11 cases of the Indian variant in Trondheim. We are 99 percent sure that it is the Indian variant we are dealing with,” Chief Physician at St Olav’s Hospital told local news site Nidaros.

According to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, there have been 55 cases of the Delta strain detected in Norway. 

On Tuesday, coronavirus measures in Trondheim were tightened for the second time in a week. 

New quarantine hotel rules 

From today, anyone who has received their first coronavirus jab in Norway, at least three weeks before their arrival, and those who have recovered from Covid-19 in the country in the last six months will not be forced into quarantine hotels when they arrive in Norway.

READ MORE: Norway eases Covid hotel quarantine rules

Travellers arriving in Norway who were vaccinated in foreign countries will still have to enter quarantine hotels.

The scheme will be in place until Norway’s full “coronavirus certificate” is released on June 11th.

READ MORE: NEW: Norway to launch full version of digital ‘Covid certificate’ 

Norway to provide poorer countries with 1 million extra Coronavirus vaccines 

Norway has said it will provide an extra one million Covid-19 vaccine doses to low-income countries through the equitable access Covax scheme. 

Led by organisations including UNICEF, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Covax aims to offer equal access to vaccines for all countries. The scheme is primarily funded by wealthy Western countries, with the EU having pledged €500 million as of November 2020.

The Nordic country had previously provided poorer countries with the option to secure 700,000 vaccine doses through the scheme. 

READ MORE: Why Norway turned down the chance to order nearly 700,000 Covid-19 vaccines

353 new Covid-19 cases in Norway 

On Wednesday, 353 new cases of coronavirus were registered in Norway. This is eight cases more than the seven-day average of 345. 

In the capital, Oslo, 128 new Covid cases were registered in the city. Cases have risen sharply in recent days and yesterday’s figures represent an increase of 69 on the seven-day average. 

The R-number or reproduction rate in Norway is currently 1.0. This means that every ten people that are infected will, on average, only infect another ten people, indicating that the infection level is stable.

Number of reported Covid-19 cases. Source: NIPH