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How long will the general strike in Norway last? 

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
How long will the general strike in Norway last? 
The General Strike in Norway could drag on for weeks. Pictured is the Grand Hotel, which is among the firms hit by the strike, in Oslo. Photo by Joel Alzugaray on Unsplash

On Monday, 24,000 workers walked out in a strike that will become significantly more disruptive the longer it goes on. So will unions and employers come to a quick agreement, or will industrial action drag out? 

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The strike began as talks between the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and the Confederation of Vocational Unions (YS) -- and the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) broke down on Sunday. 

"We didn't think that which was offered by NHO and finally was in the draft by the national mediator was good enough for us to accept it," LO leader Peggy Hessen Folsvik told reporters.

The strike affects the production and delivery of food, drinks and furniture, as well as hospitality, travel and construction. 

What has caused the strike? 

Unions had been seeking a real wage increase for members. Estimates from the Norwegian government forecast inflation for 2023 to be 4.9 percent, meaning that unions were seeking a wage bump in the region of five percent. 

Stein Lier-Hansen from the employer organisation Norsk Industri has claimed that the offer from NHO would have been enough to secure a real wage increase, public broadcaster NRK reports. 

Folsvik has denied this, calling Lier-Hansen's branding Lier-Hansen's claim "a lie" and was annoyed that details that were supposed to remain confidential were leaked. Lier Hansen has dismissed Folsvik's reaction to his claims.

Key to the dispute over whether unions' demands were met was what's referred to as "wage slippage". This is the portion of the collective bargaining agreement which workplaces can negotiate with employees. This amounted to nearly two percent, according to a report from public broadcaster NRK

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The two percent leeway would see some workers earn significantly less than the five percent target after negotiations between them and their work occur. 

Folsvik argued that only some workers would have seen a real wage increase but stopped short of confirming exact figures to NRK.

The longer the strike lasts, the more disruptive it will be, and the more workers will take industrial action. For example, if the strike drags on, supermarket chain Coop Norge said soft drinks would become scarce in a few weeks. 

How long could the strike last ? 

On Monday, LO said it is prepared to dig in and prolong the strike for as long as it takes to secure its demands. 

"We will continue with this (industrial action) until we get our demands met, then we will see how long it takes. We are, of course, sorry that the strike has consequences for those who do not participate in the strike," she said at a picket. 

The next wave of industrial action can begin on Friday. In this second wave, just over 17,000 more workers could strike. 

In that case, Rema distribution, Postnord, Felleskjøpet, Kongsberg Maritime, the elevator company Schindler, Schenker, and SINTEF could be affected, among others.

In theory, the strike could last months as both NHO and LO have billions of kroner in a fund to compensate workers and businesses for lost wages and revenue during strikes

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However, while both parties have significant funds in their war chests, it is in neither party's best interest to prolong the strike. 

Talking to NRK's politics show, Politisk Kvarter, Jørn Eggum, leader of Fellesforbundet and Hansen from Norsk Industri agreed that the strike shouldn't be prolonged and there was good reason to remain positive in hopes of finding an agreement. 

The key, based on the details reported by NRK of the proposed deal that was rejected, could be finding a solution to the conflict surrounding "wage slippage" and ensuring real wage growth was secured for more workers. 

Speaking to Norwegian newswire NTB, labour researcher Kristine Nergaard, said that it could be possible that an agreement is reached before Friday. 

"My tip is that we will see attempts to find a solution before the announced escalation on Friday. From both sides there is a desire for this to go as quickly as possible," she said. 

Nergaard added that the strike would pose major issues for the construction industry, which in turn put a lot of pressure on the NHO. 

"The strike will lead to such big challenges for the industry and the construction industry that I think we will see a solution quite quickly," Nergaard said. 

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