Why are bus drivers going on strike in Norway?

Why are bus drivers going on strike in Norway?
An Oslo city bus. Photo: Seansie/Creative Commons
Bus drivers across Norway are taking industrial action in response to what they consider unfair wages.

Recent strikes by bus drivers in Norway are set to continue, with over 8,500 drivers scheduled to strike across the country this weekend.

On Sunday, 3,800 bus drivers in Oslo and Viken went on strike, with unions unable to reach agreement with employers’ representation over wages and other conditions.

“Bus drivers have very demanding working hours, wages are low, safety is under threat and we are worried about the future of this important profession. That is why we are now taking more people on strike,” the leader of Norway’s federation of trade unions, Jørn Eggum, said in a statement.

Executives in the sector took home an average of 2.85 million kroner (around 260,000 euros) in annual salary in 2019. That compares to an entry level salary of 340,000 kroner (just under 31,000 euros) for bus drivers, according to a report by E24.

A review by the media found that one of the highest-earning executives at bus operators, Vy Buss CEO Ole Engebret Haugen, received a salary increase of 12.76 percent between 2018 and 2019.

That included a basic wage of 2.7 million kroner and bonus of 443,000 kroner, according to the report.

Drivers have seen their salaries increase by 3.85 percent since 2017, Norwegian professional drivers’ union Yrkestrafikkforbundet told finance media E24.

“These figures strip all sense of credibility from employers. I become despondent when the hypocrisy shows its true face as some bosses get bonuses and wage increases equivalent to an annual salary for a bus driver while also urging bus drivers to show moderation,” Eggum said to E24.

“They say they are afraid that a liveable wage and the costs of a safe workplace for the country’s bus drivers would be bad for passengers [due to potentially higher ticket prices, ed.]. Then we say that there are no directors of bus companies earning under 2.5 million (kroner) and some earn up to 3.7 million,” he continued.

In comments provided by Vy to E24, director of communications Elin Myrmel-Johansen said that directors and other staff received equivalent percentage wage increases, but bonuses meant that “total compensation” was higher for the most senior employees.

NHO Transport, the employers’ organisation for the transport sector in Norway, has said it does not consider wage increases necessary.

“We have nothing more to offer. The bus drivers get the same level of wage increase as other industrial workers get in this wage settlement,” NHO Transport CEO Jon Stordrange said in comments to VG in reference to the collective bargaining agreement negotiations which form the background to the conflict.

“It should be possible to live on a bus driver's salary, but this is on average 452,000 kroner. We do not think that (bus drivers) are in such a bad position compared to other groups. In Oslo, they get an average of 10,000 more than in the rest of the country. They also have a 34-hour working week, compared to 37.5, which is normal,” he added.

READ ASLO: What you need to know about driving in Norway


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