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Norway union and employers reach deal, strike averted

EconomyApr 03, 2016 13:34
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© Reuters. Norway union and employers reach deal, strike averted

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's main industrial trade union reached a wage deal with employers on Sunday, averting a strike affecting more than 26,000 workers, the parties said.

The deal between Fellesforbundet, the most influential private-sector branch of Norway's Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), and the employers' Federation of Norwegian Industries (Norsk Industri), came some 12 hours after a self-imposed deadline had passed.

The outcome of the talks sets a benchmark for negotiations for other workers in Norway, including those in service industries and the public sector. Wage negotiations for the major oil unions have not yet started.

"It is good we have avoided a conflict, because Norwegian industry would have been hurt by a strike," Stein Lier-Hansen, head of Norsk Industri, told broadcaster TV2.

The Norwegian economy, once one of Europe's brightest, ground to a halt in late 2015, leaving full-year growth at its lowest in six years and consumer confidence at its lowest in 24 years.

As western Europe's top oil and gas producer, Norway has been hit by a 67-percent fall in crude prices since mid-2014. Unemployment has reached an 11-year high of 4.8 percent, low by global standards but far above the 3.2 percent seen in mid-2014.

A key part of the deal was extending the time workers who have lost their jobs can receive unemployment benefits to 52 weeks from 30 weeks. The rightwing government of Prime Minister Erna Solberg agreed to the change, despite being against such a move ahead of the talks.

The deal will still need the approval of parliament as the government is in a minority.

In return, the parties agreed a growth in wages of 2.4 percent overall, which Lier-Hansen said was "moderate" and would help Norwegian companies' competitiveness.

"The financial framework of 2.4 percent safeguards employment," union LO said in a statement.

A strike would have affected some 26,000 workers including those from oil services firm Aker Solutions (OL:AKSOL), aluminium producer Norsk Hydro (OL:NHY) and industrial conglomerate Kongsberg Gruppen (OL:KOG).

In addition, the smaller Parat union said around 1,300 of its members would have walked out.

Norway union and employers reach deal, strike averted

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