On Sunday 16 April, Norway’s main trade union confederation, LO, announced it had broken off talks with the employers’ organisation (NHO) over pay. The main trade union organisations are now out on a ‘general strike’. According to the leader of the LO, this is the first time since the second world war that the LO has called for such action.
The LO stated that for the last two years, workers have had to cope with rising living costs, which have outstripped salary increases. “This general strike puts the workers and workers’ struggle back on the agenda,” said the leader of the LO, Peggy Hessen Følsvik. She commented that the ‘old-fashioned’ class struggle is now in the limelight.
“LO demanded increased purchasing power for all its members and a boost for the low-paid,” she said in a statement. “[The employers’ representative] has chosen to reject our demands, and thus sends the country into a strike.”
Transport, hotel, and construction sectors are all hit by the strikes. More than 22,000 workers from the LO are taking part, alongside around 1,500 from a smaller union. If no solution is found during this week, the LO states, another 16,000 workers will join the strike, next Friday.
The trade union leaders decided that the offer which the employers made was not good enough, even though the trade union demand was modest (around a 6% pay rise, according to reports).
The employers insist that the workers’ organisation should keep the offer(s) secret between the mediators. We in the CWI in Norway do not agree with this – all negotiations should be out in the open, for the rank-and-file trade union members to follow. As things stand, the union members on strike do not even know what the offer and/or counter offers are.
The right-wing media are trying to play down the strike action and attack it. “The LO throws Norway into an unnecessary general strike over petty cash, in a time of crisis,” is a typical comment they use to put pressure on the LO.
A few months ago, when teachers and hospital workers took action, the employers’ organisation cynically used the “forced arbitration committees” to make the strikers return to work. The employers’ organisation (NHO) declared a lockout in a cynical way to force the state to invoke forced arbitration. The bosses may try this tactic in the current strike, as well.
The composition of the arbitration committee does not benefit the workers, and the striking workers know it. The main task now should be to win by using the power of industrial action, fully involving workers, at all levels, and coordinating across Norway; for democratic rank-and-file control of their industrial action. Action should be stepped up, drawing in more workers, if necessary, to win.
If an arbitration committee is to play any role, it should be composed differently, in favour of the workers and not in favour of the state and the employers. The arbitration committee could be made up of one-third of the members from the TUC (LO); one-third of the members from the shop steward organisation who are affected; and one-third from the Employers Organisation (NHO).
The CWI sends solidarity to all workers in Norway struggling for a decent wage:
No (Tvungetlønnsnemd) forced arbitration!
No secret negotiations!
Do not cross a picket line!
For rank-and-file democratic control of the strike
Widen industrial action until workers win a decent pay rise