Tough bargaining in both the state and municipal sectors have ended up in mediation as employers fail to get close to the unions’ key demands. In the state sector unions were already concerned about the increasing gap between the low and high paid and the prospect of pay increases negotiated mainly at local level were seen as increasing the likelihood that the lower paid would again lose out. Public sector unions support the system where industry settlements set a benchmark and note that last year state workers got 0.5% less than the private sector. However, they also argue that the public sector needs to adjust its pay increases to ensure that certain groups don’t lose out. In the municipal sector too, unions are focusing on the 0.5% gap with the private sector but also argue that the employers have so far not delivered on key demands in relation to equal pay and low pay.
State and municipal negotiations in mediation
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Negotiations over pay are getting underway in the state and local government sectors with unions seeking to protect their members’ purchasing power and focusing on support for the lower paid. While unions agree that the system where the industrial sector sets the trend for pay bargaining is the right one, negotiations in the public sector need to address how pay trends have affected different occupations. This means there are arguments for a flat-rate increase that will benefit the lower paid, including the often undervalued groups like cleaners who have played a key role in coping with the
Negotiations in the private nursing and care sector have ended without agreement and so now move into mediation. The trade union position is to try to ensure that occupations are paid at similar levels irrespective of the collective agreement in place but there is not employer commitment to do this. Public service union Fagforbundet acknowledges that there will always be some variations between agreements but is concerned that major differences are becoming systematic. It points out that a cleaner in private nursing and care has a minimum wage of NOK 258000 (EUR 24000) which is around NOK
The mediator in the public sector pay dispute has extended the official period of mediation. Unless she decides to end the mediation early then this means that the unions cannot take any strike action until 6 May and employers cannot impose their threatened lockout until 12 May. In the meantime unions are still mobilising their activists and public services union FOA organised a meeting of 2000 worker representatives which reaffirmed their determination to push for a real wage increase as well as special measures to address low pay and pay in occupations dominated by women.