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Teachers’ strike in Norway could escalate when new school year starts

The new school year in Norway could be marked by an escalation of a teachers' strike, which could see education professionals across the country join teachers in Bergen already on strike. 

Pictured is a boy in a classroom.
Teachers warn that education standards could worsen in Switzerland. Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

A dispute over pay and wage growth could see teachers nationwide strike at the beginning of the new school year in Norway, public broadcaster NRK reports. 

“We have made a plan. I cannot reveal where, when and how many people will be affected by a strike. But it is only natural to imagine that an escalation will take place in connection with the start of school,” Steffen Handal, head of the Norwegian Education Association, told NRK. 

Currently, 40 teachers in Bergen are already on strike over wages. Handal says teachers have been the wage losers in the public sector’s last six collective bargaining agreements. 

“We are struggling to recruit and retain teachers. KS has made the teachers wage losers for the sixth year in a row. This is a policy that drives people out of the teaching profession,” Handal said. 

In May, the National Association of Schools, the Norwegian Association of Lecturers and the Norwegian Education Association came out against the deal, which the public sector accepted as a whole. 

KS, the organisation which negotiates collective bargaining agreements with the public sector, has warned that there isn’t really any room for negotiation. 

READ ALSO: How easy is it to work as an English teacher in Norway?

“The money has been used up,” Tor Arne Gangsø, director of labour at KS, told NRK. 

Kristine Nergaard, a researcher with Fafo, which researchers working life, warned that the strike has the potential to drag on once it escalates. 

“I think that it will last for at least two to three weeks from the time of escalation. Maybe more. It will also be difficult to manage this strike against the compulsory wage board,” Nergaard told union news site Utdanningsnytt.no.

The researcher added that unions could take the same approach as in 2014 when 7,000 teachers were on strike at the beginning of the new school year. 

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STRIKES

Norwegian government forces teachers’ strike to an end

Teachers in Norway returned to work on Wednesday following a lengthy strike due to the Norwegian government forcing industrial action over wages to an end.

Norwegian government forces teachers' strike to an end

Norway’s government has ended the teachers’ strike and forced unions and The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) to a compulsory wage board.

“Unfortunately, the parties have not found a solution to the conflict. The strike is now leading to serious societal consequences for children and young people. I am particularly concerned about the pupils’ education, vulnerable children and young people and their mental health. After an overall assessment, I have therefore proposed a compulsory wage board,” Labour and Inclusion Minister Marte Mjøs Persen said in a statement.

Teachers decided to strike in June over wage growth in recent years. Unions said teachers had been the wage losers of collective bargaining agreements between KS and the public sector for the last six years.

KS maintained throughout the strike that it did not have the funds available that teachers were demanding. Around 8,500 teachers were on strike before the government brought industrial action to an end.

Over the past few weeks, several organisations called on the government to end the strike in the interest of students’ well-being.

Typically, strikes aren’t referred to the compulsory wage board in Norway unless there is a threat to public health.

Last week, unions met with KS and mediators, but the parties were unable to break through the deadlock.

“It is deeply regrettable that the government has chosen to intervene with a compulsory wage board. They now assume a great deal of responsibility for what has been the basis of the conflict,” Steffen Handal from the Norwegian Education Association said of the government’s decision.

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