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Norwegian teachers set to strike on Monday

Teachers are to step up strike action from Monday when schools in Norway return from the summer break after talks betwen union and government officials broke down on Thursday.

Norwegian teachers set to strike on Monday
Norway's national education mediator Nils Dalseide on his way to a meeting with union officials. Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB scanpix.

2,200 teachers, from state and private schools, on Thursday joined the 5,500 already striking.

The latest round of meetings to try to solve the conflict broke down.
 
Thousands of pupils and parents must prepare for disruption in the school work schedule from next week. In stepping up the strike, it will also involve teachers in elementary schools.
 
Per Kristian Sundnes, head of negotiation from the KS Union, said to NTB he believed that it is not his side's turn to put further suggestions on the table. He said: “Both parties have come forth with what they have already offered. It looks like we are heading towards 5,500 teachers on strike. But it is still possible to prevent thousands of students and parents being affected.”
 
Leader of the Union of Education Norway, Ragnhild Lied, said that the basis for an agreement wasn’t there on Thursday night and that a strike will therefore happen.
 
Lied said: “We tried and we tried, but didn't get any way with anything.”
 
She added: “The way I see it, there will hardly be an approach over the weekend unless KS puts something substantial on the table. And this is about more than the 7.5 hours of working hours at school that we were ridiculed for during the summer. This is about the whole trust relationship between KS and teachers, plus the opportunity to give the students flexible teaching, according to their needs.”
 
Before summer this year, the majority of the Union of Education Norway voted “no” to a working hour contract for teachers that the union had agreed upon earlier with the municipal sector organization (KS).
 
The Union of Education Norway then took out 36 teachers at Rothaugen school in Bergen on the 1st of June. From 11th of August 5,500 teachers were put on strike on all levels, except elementary schools.
 
The crucial point in the minimum wage contract that the Union of Education Norway contended is that teachers are obligated to work at the school up to 7.5 hours daily, instead of being able to work from home during parts of the working hours, as they are allowed to do currently. KS however rejected that this has ever been a demand from their side.
 
The newly elected chairman of the Norwegian Labour Party, Jonas Gahr Støre, held a demonstration at Arendal Square only a couple of hours after the same square was filled up by protesting teachers.
 
Støre said during his protest: “It is a serious problem in our society that there is a break of trust between the teachers and their employers, and that the teachers are doubting whether they really have the place in society.”
 
He also said: “We can ascertain that there is a failure of trust. Everyone of us should reflect to ourselves. Teachers have experienced for several years that they have been spoken highly of. But at the same time, they say that they are met by demands on more reporting, more bureaucracy, more workload. We then have to ask what we are doing about it. How can we see to it that a teacher can be a teacher?”
 
During his speech, he asked all political parties to gather together and agree about creating a good schooling sytem, instead of starting a fresh conflict about privatization.

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School strikes cause chaos across Norway

School pupils and staff face chaos on Monday as around 8,000 teachers take strike action all over Norway.

School strikes cause chaos across Norway
Korsvoll school: One of many hit by teachers' strike action. Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB scanpix

In some parts of the country, schools are fully closed, while in other parts, schools are forced to operate with minimal staff.  5,500 teachers were on strike from early last week and a further 2,200 joined the strike force on Thursday.

The strike will affect primary and secondary schools and colleges from Monday.

The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, the Union of Education Norway and the municipal organization KS all lack full control of the situation and are unsure of the impact of the action on students.
 
Instead it is up to each school in each municipality to manage its own situation and to decide whether the students should meet up for first day at school or not. Students and parents must therefore check relevant websites or find out through word of mouth what to do.
 
College students are forced to attend or face loosing their study right. According to “VG”, the student registration office in Hordaland has sent out 6,000 text messages to college students, where they inform students of the importance of attendance. It is still not confirmed, however, whether college students need to meet up every day of the strike to register.
 
The leader of the Union of Education Norway, Ragnhild Lied, says she is sorry students and parents have been affected, but pinpoints that strike action is a legal measure.
 
Lied says: “We have tried to ‏spare the youngest.”
 
The School Student Union of Norway will have a meeting with the Union of Education Norway on Monday afternoon to discuss what can be done for the students at secondary schools and colleges affected by the dispute over pay and working hours.
 
Benjamin Skiaker Myrstad, leader of the Student Union of Norway, said to NTB: “It is a problem that working hours, lost during a strike, are not to be caught up later. Students however have right to a certain amount of hours of teaching.”
 
The organization is in touch with those involved in the conflict to find possible solutions if the strike lasts for a prolonged period.
 
Myrstad said: “It is good to be prepared for everything. We believe all parties agree that it is important to clear up on this problem.”
 
Teachers working in primary schools from first to fourth grade, were not involved in strike action. But the dispute stepped up its action from Thursday when the first primary schools were affected.
 
Per Kristian Sundnes, leader of negotiation in KS, regretted students and teachers are affected by the conflict that has lasted since before summer this year.
 
No meetings are planned between the disputing parties on Monday, confirmed NTB. On Tuesday the main board of KS will discuss the matter.
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