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Norwegian governemnt forces oil and gas strike to end

Norway's government said Tuesday it was referring a dispute between oil and gas workers and employers to an independent board, after an industry group warned strikes could cut Norway's gas exports by more than half.

An oil rig.
The Norwegian government has forced the oil and gas worker strike to an end. Pictured is an oil rig in Norwegian waters. Photo by Jan-Rune Smenes Reite: https://www.pexels.com/photo/oil-platfrom-rig-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean-3207536/

The move, which effectively ends the stoppage, comes after workers walked out of their jobs on Tuesday, leading to the closure of three fields and the union announced more workers would strike later in the week.

“The announced escalation is critical in today’s situation, both with regards to the energy crisis and the geopolitical situation we are in with a war in Europe,” Labour Minister Marte Mjos Persen said in a statement.

Under Norwegian legislation, the government can force parties in a labour dispute to a wage board which will decide on the matter.

Earlier on Tuesday, industry group the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, warned that with the announced escalation of the strike announced for Saturday would slash output.

It said 56 percent of total gas exports from the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) would be cut, together with a production loss of 341,000 barrels of oil a day.

‘A very tight market’

“It is unjustifiable to allow gas production to stop to such an extent that this strike in the next few days is estimated to lead to,” Persen said.

Earlier Tuesday Norwegian energy giant Equinor said it had shut down production at three oil and gas fields after oil workers walked out following failed wage negotiations, and warned that more closures were expected.

The strike came at a time when energy prices have fluctuated as a result of the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and associated sanctions.

“Norwegian deliveries account for a quarter of European energy supplies, and Europe is entirely dependent on Norway delivering as a nation at a time when Russian supply cuts have created a very tight market for natural gas,” said the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association.

“A strike on this scale poses huge problems for countries which are wholly dependent on filling up their gas stores ahead of the autumn and winter,” it added.

Workers walked out after members of the Lederne union voted no to a proposal brought by mediators during wage negotiations. 

According to the government, the parties had said “that they will end the strike so that everyone can return to work as soon as possible”.

READ MORE: What does Norway do with its oil money?

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SAS

SAS ‘reaches deal’ with pilots to end strike

Airline SAS and striking pilots reached an agreement on Monday night to bring an end to the strike that has seen hundreds of flights cancelled in recent days, according to reports. However the airline later said that more work was needed to finalise the deal.

SAS 'reaches deal' with pilots to end strike

Representatives of pilots unions and the airline SAS spoke to the press on Monday about an agreement being reached and the strike ending. 

“We have a deal, all that remains now is to get the last signatures on paper,” Carsten Dilling, the airline’s chair, told Sweden’s Dagens Industri newspaper before SAS said that talks were continuing.

“What I’m hearing from the negotiation room is that we have a deal,” a spokesperson for Dansk Metal, one of the unions representing SAS pilots, told Reuters, adding the agreement was not yet finalised.

However later on Monday SAS released a statement denying that any deal had been finalised.

“Due to the speculation in the media, SAS wants to clarify that no agreement has yet been signed between the two parties. The mediation process continues,” the airline wrote on its website after several reports emerged that the company and pilots had agreed to end the strike. 

“While the mediation has moved in the right direction, no agreement has yet been signed,” the airline said.

But news reports suggest that the deal is all but done but that it wasn’t good news for pilots.

Levi Skogvang, chair of the Norwegian pilots union, told the Dagbladet newspaper that he was not pleased with the five-year agreement that had been made, but that it was good enough to bring the strike to an end.

“It’s a tragedy for the pilots, looked at solely on the basis of their contracts, but it’s good that we’re done and that we can get the planes up in the air again,” he told the newspaper.

“We have not managed to negotiate an improvement in our terms, but only got worse terms. It’s not a nice thing to do. The only thing that is nice is that we have a deal, and that we can get the planes up in the air again.” 

According to Norway’s state broadcaster NRK, under the deal, the pilots have agreed not to go on strike or seek higher pay for five years, and in return, the 560 pilots who were laid off during the pandemic will be given back their jobs. 

Newspaper VG reports that Aleksander Wasland, leader of the Norwegian Pilots’ Association, had told NRK that 450 pilots got their jobs back, before the comment was later officially withdrawn by the broadcaster. 

A majority of SAS pilots in Sweden, Denmark and Norway walked out on July 4 triggering a strike that SAS has said cost it between $94 million and $123 million a day, Reuters reported.

The strike also coincides with the busy summer season in northern Europe, normally a time for airlines to cash in on holidaymakers.

The Local will update this story as we get more information.

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