Could the Norwegian government force an end to the teachers' strike? 

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected] • 13 Sep, 2022 Updated Tue 13 Sep 2022 12:33 CEST
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Several different groups have called on the government to end the current teachers strike. Pictured is pupil in a library.Photo by Redd on Unsplash

Some 6,600 teachers in Norway are currently on strike, with many calling on the government to force the industrial action to an end. But how likely is this to happen? 

 The main union representing teachers in Norway and the employer organisation representing the public sector, The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), are deadlocked and appear no closer to striking an agreement as when the strike commenced. 

Teachers are striking over salaries and wage growth. Meanwhile, KS has repeatedly said that the money teachers want isn't there. The decision to strike came following the collective bargaining agreement with the public sector. The public sector accepted KS's offer as a whole, but teachers have decided to strike as they feel they've gotten a raw deal in the last few agreements.

On Monday, the national mediator said that the union representing teachers and KS were far apart from any potential agreement.

As the strike has been ramped up and the two parties are no closer to finding an agreement, several groups have called on the government to force the strike to end by sending the unions and KS to mandatory wage negotiations. 

In Lillestrøm, south-east Norway, 92 parents have signed an open letter to the government asking ministers to end the strike. The letter, sent to Minister for Children and Families Kjersti Toppe and Minister for Health and Welfare Ingvild Kjerkol called on the government to consider where the right to education overrules the right to strike, public broadcaster NRK reports. 

Additionally, children's ombudsman Inga Bejer Engh said she harboured concerns over how the prolonged strikes would affect pupils with special educational needs. 

As well as parents, young people's mental health organisations have been critical of the strike. 

"These young people have been through two years of a pandemic, and it has been difficult for many. Now the teachers' strike is coming to a head, and we know that absence from school has been harmful to the young people," Adrian Lorentsson, head of communications at Mental Health Youth, told Norwegian newswire NTB. 

Can the government end the strike? 

In Norway, the government can force an end to the strike and send the two parties to a mandatory board that will settle the wage negotiations.

Most recently, it brought an air technician strike to an end in the summer due to concerns for public health. In this instance, the strike ended as it could potentially ground air ambulances. 

Mental Health Youth believes that the Norwegian Health Authority should assess whether the strike could pose a danger to the health of affected pupils. 

"Our starting point is that the Norwegian Health Authority must assess whether the strike poses a danger to the life and health of the pupils, and then we believe that there is a basis for a compulsory wage board," Lorentsson told NTB. 

However, the Norwegian Health Authority has said that the current teachers' strike doesn't fall under its remit, therefore making it hard for the government to force the strike to an end on public health and safety grounds. 

In some cases, such as with the oil industry, the government can send two parties to a wage negotiation board without there being a risk to public health. However, this is less common and can prove controversial.  

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Frazer Norwell 2022/09/13 12:33

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