Is Norway headed for a major public transport strike?

If an agreement over wages is not agreed on by midnight Sunday, then nearly 30,000 public transport workers could strike, bringing Norway to a grinding halt.

Is Norway headed for a major public transport strike?
Photo by Hyunwon Jang on Unsplash

The mediation between trade union federations LO and YS and the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), which represents employers, will take place in Oslo this weekend.

The disagreement between the parties is largely related to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The NHO and employers believe that Norwegian businesses should be protected against too steep a rise in wages after the pandemic to protect Norwegian competitiveness.  

“The biggest difference in our country is between those who have a job and those who do not. To secure jobs we must ensure the competitiveness of companies,” Nina Melsom, a senior representative at NHO, told news agency NTB.

It is estimated that workers represented by these unions would receive a 2.2 percent wage increase. Adjusted for inflation, this would mean a reduction in spending terms as inflation is expected to reach 2.8 percent this year. 

If the parties do not reach an agreement with ombudsmen then Norway could wake up to a standstill with the cancellation of practically all buses and a number of ferry connections.

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More than 25,000 members from LO and over 5,500 bus drivers represented by YS are threatening to strike.

“We enter into this mediation with the goal of reaching an agreement. At the same time, I note that it has not been possible to agree with NHO so far. More than 23,000 LO members in the private sector are ready to strike from Sunday and take the fight for the entire working life against NHO’s provocative demands for a real wage cut,” LO leader Peggy Hessen Følsvik told NTB.

Melsom argues that the circumstances surrounding the wage dispute are unusual.

“We must remember that this is not a normal wage settlement. It is a wage settlement that comes in the middle of a crisis we have not seen since the war,” she told NTB.

The parties were summoned to the talks by the ombudsmen after LO and NHO broke off negotiations on March 25th. This year’s settlement is an interim settlement, where only salaries are negotiated. There has been no strike on an interim settlement since before World War Two.

Følsvik has argued that the demands they are making are moderate.

“We basically have a moderate requirement to secure, not increase purchasing power. It is a strong guide for moderation. It is completely inappropriate to accept a real wage (wages adjusted for inflation) cut,” she told NTB.

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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

There have been 11 potential cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19, which is believed to have originated in India, in Trondheim, Central Norway. 

“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