The Norwegian TUC (LO) called off a ‘general strike’, thus leaving workers to pay for the cost of living crisis that is not their fault. The LO is calling the agreement with employers a victory for lower-paid workers (a 5.2% pay rise, with options for 2 -3 krone more as a ‘low-wage-supplement’). But according to official figures from the Norwegian (SSB) statistical central bureau, inflation in the past 12 months has been running at 6.5 %, so the reported wage agreed is already leaving the lower-paid workers behind.
It was reported that after just three days of the general strike, one union won over a thousand new members, which the CWI in Norway had predicted could take place. Historically, the LO, with the ‘moderate’ wing in control, has seen membership decline. But even after a few days of action and the workers started to flood into unions.
Workers, pensioners, students and the poor are experiencing price increases at an alarming rate. Up until a few years ago, hardly anybody was using Salvation Army soup kitchens in Norway. But as we have mentioned in previous articles, poverty is on the increase.
Most households now face the price of a kilowatt-hour doubling. Some hours of the day see an increase from 0.40 kroner, 18 months ago, to 2 or 3 kroner for 1 kilowatt-hour, today.
The cost of the average mortgage has also jumped, from 3000 kroner per month, a year ago, to now 8000 kroner per month (nearly three times as much). When asked about bank interest rates, the leader of the ruling coalition, Større, leader of the Norwegian Labour Party (AP), said that it was necessary to prevent further inflation.
Given all this, it is not surprising that one of the talking points by joint shop stewards’ pages on social media concerned the overnight cancelation of the general strike. They condemned the LO decision as undemocratic, as there was no consultation with workers on the shop floor.
The LO agreement with the employers is looked upon with mixed feelings by workers. Many express the view that it is better than nothing but only just. The optimism felt on the picket lines just evaporated. But it would surface again if the movement was led by leaders who do not get rattled by a few hostile headlines in the mass media.
The wage discussions, which were held in a hotel in-camera (‘in private’), involving the national mediator, the employers, and the head of the trade unions (LO), is an ‘honourable agreement’ that only serves the employers and the moderate, compromising wing of the LO.
Many workers will draw lessons from the strike and actions of the LO leadership. The need to build combative, democratic trade unions is essential.
CWI Norway says:
- All representatives of the workers’ movement should only accept a workers’ wage.
- No secret wage discussions – for full openness, discussions, and decision-making by rank-and-file trade unionists on the offers, etc.
- An independent trade union study group to monitor inflation and monitor profits of the big monopolies – open up the books of big business for workers’ inspection!
- Shut down the enforced ‘arbitration committee’ – no rotten compromises with the employers and state.