37,000 Machinists Strike In Norway

By Dag TirsÚn, Militant, Vol.60 no.22, 3 June 1996

DRAMMEN, Norway—Not a single one of us has crossed the picket line. Though a majority at this factory voted ‘yes’ to the contract proposal, we are 100 percent behind the strike. That was the attitude of Aksel Ask, Leif Livudd, and Per Ask as they picketed the ABB Norsk Kabel plant here May 21.

The three are among the nearly 37,000 machinists who have been on strike at some 500 companies since May 13 over wages and pensions. It is the largest strike in the industry since 1924.

The workers, members of the Fellesforbundet union, voted down a contract proposal negotiated by the union officials. The offer included a pay raise of 1.50 kroner (1 kroner = $.147); workers are demanding 3.00 kroner. Another issue is the pension age. We wanted the pension age to be 62. Today it is 64, said Beth-Live Larsen at Kvaerner Eurake in Tranby. The contract offer was 63 years.

Downsizing, lean production, and just-in-time inventory systems mean other manufacturers in Europe are quickly affected by the work stoppage. SAAB announced it will begin temporary layoffs at partial pay at its auto plant in Sweden May 22. Rival automaker Volvo said it might have to cut production at its factory near Gothenburg, Sweden, the following week.

Workers on the picket line enthusiastically reported that they have received support from the 2-million-strong IG Metall metalworkers union in Germany.

The big-business media in Norway is filled with speculation over whether the government will intervene and force a settlement. We don't want the government to step in, said Morten Johansen, a worker at Kvaerner Eureka, as he walked the picket line. It will undercut our right to strike.

The week before the machinists' strike, a six-day walkout by oil workers halted 40 percent of Norway's oil production.