Norway Union Calls Big Strike for Wednesday

By Ola Peter Krohn Gjessing, Reuters, Friday 28 April 2000, 9:35 AM ET

OSLO (Reuters)—Norway's main union Friday called a strike by 81,500 workers from next Wednesday in what is likely to become the country's biggest labor conflict since the 1980s.

The indefinite action, by private sector workers in the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), is expected to hit businesses ranging from ferries to hotels.

Called after members rejected a pay offer, the stoppage is likely to affect some land-based oil and gas workers—but unionists said it would have no immediate impact on Norway's key offshore platforms, which pump 3.2 million barrels of crude per day.

He said the LO would extend the strike beyond an initial 81,500 members if there was no quick breakthrough once the stoppage began. Unions and employers said there was almost no chance of averting the strike before May 3.

Haagensen said it would be the biggest labor conflict in Norway since a lock-out of 102,000 workers in 1986.

The No was a stinging rebuff to Haagensen and a bad start for the new Labor government of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, which took office in March urging wage moderation. Labor traditionally has close ties to LO.

LO members voted down a pay deal negotiated by Haagensen and other LO leaders with the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry. It was worth 3.5-4.0 percent and included a promise of a fifth week of holidays from 2002.

Crown Weak Vs Dollar

The Norwegian crown has been weakening in recent weeks against many currencies apart from the sagging euro, partly on worries that wage settlements will boost inflation now running at 2.5 percent year-on-year.

The crown was at 8.9455 against the dollar at 1300 GMT on Friday, recovering slightly in line with the euro after slumping to a new 15-year low earlier Friday at 9.0155. The Swedish crown has also gained to parity with its Norwegian counterpart for the first time since 1998.

A strike has long been priced into markets.

Haagensen declined to spell out what LO would be demanding by going on strike, apart from saying they wanted a new offer from employers.