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Norwegian Civil Servants on Strike For First Time in 28 Years

Translated Monday 28 May 2012, by Holden Ferry and reviewed by Derek Hanson

Thousands of Norwegian civil servants began to strike on Thursday, mainly affecting schools, day care centers, and even prisons throughout the country. The reason for the strike: the government’s refusal to align salary increases for civil servants with those of the private sector.

Some 30,000 of Norway’s 600,000 civil servants are taking part in the strike, according to the Norwegian news agency, NTB. However, this number could soon grow if the unions and the public authorities are unable to reach an agreement on the salaries. Schools, day care centers, the police, and Customs are the areas most affected by the strike. A prison has also had to be shut down, and the prisoners were transported to other detention centers, according to NTB.

The news agency also reports that this is the first time in 28 years that civil servants on the national level are going on strike in this oil-rich country of 4.7 million people. The Norwegian Minister of Government Administration, Rigmor Aasrud, emphasized in a communiqué that the Social Democratic government has proposed a 3.75% salary increase which “would ensure an increase in purchasing power for all civil servants.” The unions, however, are demanding a salary increase for civil servants comparable to the one obtained by workers in the private sector, around 4.3%.

The government “is proposing an increase that is less than the one obtained by workers in the private sector. That’s not realistic,” said Arne Johannessen, chief negotiator of the union representing teachers and day care staff, in a communiqué. Almost 8,500 members of this union went on strike Thursday morning, except in Oslo, where the negotiations are taking place. Norway’s largest trade union, LO, also criticized the public authorities’ refusal to agree to “the fair demand of an increase in line with the one given to the rest of the workers.” “The strike was therefore inevitable,” said Roar Flaathen, leader of LO, in a communiqué.

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