March 29, 2016 / 2:45 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Norway union breaks off pay talks, strike risk increases

(Adds companies’ comments)

OSLO, March 29 (Reuters) - Norway’s main industrial trade union broke off pay negotiations with employers on Tuesday, increasing the chances of strike action by workers at some of the country’s biggest companies.

A deal between Fellesforbundet, the most influential union within Norway’s confederation of unions, and the employers’ Federation of Norwegian Industries, must be reached by a deadline of midnight (2200 GMT) on April 2.

If there is no agreement, 26,000 workers from 800 companies will go on strike from April 3, the union said in a statement.

Every year in Norway, unions and employers’ organisations negotiate wage rises and other conditions for unionised workers. The parties usually reach a deal after several rounds of talks and avoid a strike. But not always.

A strike by oil workers in 2012 cut off some 13 percent of Norway’s oil production and 4 percent of its gas output and pushed oil prices up on fears of a loss of supply from western Europe’s main oil producer and exporter.

The outcome of the talks also has implications for wage growth in Norway, which is an important factor for the country’s central bank when setting interest rate policy.

Fellesforbundet said workers from oil services firm Aker Solutions, aluminium producer Norsk Hydro and industrial conglomerate Kongsberg, among others, would be affected by a strike.

A Norsk Hydro spokesman said a possible strike would affect its rolling mill in Holmestrand in southern Norway, where 250 of around 430 employees could go on strike.

“It is far too early to say if there will be a strike, and if all the members will go on strike,” the spokesman said.

“We are planning for full production, but preparing for a strike ... A full strike could affect our deliveries of rolled products, but we also have rolling mills at the Karmoey plant (in Norway) and in Germany.”

Aker Solutions declined to comment as the talks were ongoing. Kongsberg was not immediately available for comment.

Statoil, the largest operator of offshore oil and gas platforms, declined to comment as its employees are not directly involved in the wage talks.

The outcome of the talks will set a benchmark for the upcoming negotiations for all other workers in Norway, including those in service industries and the public sector. (Reporting by Stine Jacobsen and Camilla Knudsen, editing by Gwladys Fouche and Jane Merriman)

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