After mediations between trade union Akademikerne and employer association Spekter broke down, 194 union members – including around 100 doctors – walked off the job on September 7th.
The work stoppage intensified on Friday, September 16th when an additional 498 hospital workers joined the strike.
Now, Akademikerne has said that another 35 doctors and psychologists will join the protests on Friday. If they follow through on their promise, it will bring the total number of striking workers to 533.
“The withdrawal is designed to impact the employers as much as possible while shielding the patients as much as possible,” Akademikerne’s head negotiator, Rune Frøyland, said.
“The escalation will not put lives or health at risk. Acute care, cancer treatment, mental health and children have been spared,” he added.
Twelve hospitals nationwide are affected by the strike: Oslo University Hospital, Østfold Hospital, Stavanger University Hopsital, Haukeland University Hopsital in Bergen, Vestre Viken Hospital Trust, Finnmark Hospital Trust, Akershus University Hospital, Vestfold Hospital, St. Olavs Hospital in Trondheim, Sunnaas Hospital, Nordlands Hospital and the Northern Norway Regional Health Authority.
According to Akademikerne, the heart of conflict has to do with working hours.
“Spekter’s working time arrangements are irresponsible – both for the workers and for patient safety. The doctors’ exceptions from the Working Environment Act [Arbeidsmiljøloven] is already extensive enough. That’s why we are on strike,” Frøyland said when the strike began, adding that the work stoppage would continue until there is a “collective protection against irresponsible business hours.”
Spekter counters that it is not requiring changes to doctors' working hours, but merely seeking more flexibility in order to plan how to use resources in the best way possible.
The employers’ association said in a statement that the doctors “have made it very difficult for hospitals to plan solutions for patients that are in line with the new patient rights ordered by the political authorities, the expected population increases and the implementation of new specialist training”.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said on Friday that it could not provide numbers on how many patients have had their appointments and treatments delayed or cancelled by the strike. The ministry also indicated that it had no plans to get involved in the conflict.
“Society must typically endure the disadvantages that come along with a labour dispute. The authorities are following the situation,” the ministry wrote in a statement.