Norway industrial strike averted with wage deal

OSLO Sun Apr 15, 2012 7:49am EDT

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OSLO (Reuters) - Negotiators headed off a strike of 29,000 Norwegian industrial workers on Sunday with a "moderate" wage-and-benefits hike that could set the tone for other labor talks this spring across the oil-rich economy.

Strikers had threatened to picket about 800 companies, including units of oil company supplier Aker Solutions AKSO.OL, aluminium producer Hydro (NHY.OL), defense contractor Kongsberg Defense (KOG.OL) and clothing maker Helly Hansen.

"We have an agreement, and we consider it moderate," said Finn Langeland, spokesman for the Federation of Norwegian Industries, which represented employers in talks that extended more than 12 hours past their deadline.

The new two-year framework contract for mainland industrial and technology workers was expected to form the basis of subsequent talks affecting the offshore oil sector, government employees and other major job groups.

Langeland said that under the deal, total compensation would rise 2.15 percent, with additional costs to be added in company-level talks. Norway's central bank expects 3.75-percent average wage growth nationwide in 2012.

He said employers had agreed to treat temporary workers supplied by staffing agencies the same as unionized employees. Paid leave for fathers after childbirth was enhanced.

Roar Flaathen, head of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, called the agreement "a very good result".

Several big oil finds off Norway in 2011 had buoyed wage hopes even as demand for Norwegian manufactured goods and metals has fallen in weak European markets.

Employers said labor costs have shot above those elsewhere in Europe, undermining the competitiveness of traditional Norwegian exporters.

(Editing by Michael Roddy)

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