Nurses in negotiations with the employer’s organisations have balloted 95% not to accept a 1.7% percent increase in wages offered to them. This follows an insulting “null offer” (- 0%) by the bosses earlier. The real-terms pay cut offer comes on top of a high number of deaths of health workers from coronavirus.
The null offer in May of this year triggered a nationwide campaign by the Norwegian Nurses’ Association. Nurses have worked an enormous number of double shifts and also worked isolated from their families. They deserve better than a measly 1.7%.
One nurse in an NRK TV interview said that they felt like cannon fodder because in the beginning the hospitals could not provide enough Personal Protection Equipment.
The 95% ‘No’ vote, “means that we have rejected the solution that was negotiated. We thus move on to mediation to get a better offer that is better for recruiting, mobilising and retaining vital skills that nurses have”, leader of the Norwegian Nurses’ Association, Lill Sverresdatter Larsen told NRK.
Larsen points out three out of four mayors in municipalities across the country describe nurses as the working group that is most difficult to recruit. The union leader believes the corona pandemic has shown the socially critical situation we are in when we lack nurses. Norway has a deficit of five to six thousand nurses in a population of just 5.3 million.
Norwegian nurses and other health workers were among the first in the world to volunteer to travel to Italy in April 2020, giving much-needed relief to workers and people in the north of the country suffering badly from the effects of Covid-19.
A coming strike?
A strike is a tool that every employee organization has at its disposal. This also applies to nurses. A nurses’ strike should raise not just pay demands but political demands, linking the campaign for fair wages to the need to transform society, to break with the bosses’ profit-driven system.
All the big pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies should be nationalised to guarantee research, production, and the supply of medicines, vaccines, and treatments cheaply and efficiently. This should be on the basis of no compensation except where there is a proven need.
The Norwegian Conservatives have shown little regard to health workers. It is only through trade union-led struggle, including industrial action, that we can secure a significant pay rise, full staffing, and decent conditions for workers.
This is also necessary to end the neglect of social care and hospital wards and so on, and to return it all to the public sector, democratically controlled by the care workers and families.