Escalation: 4,500 Norwegian bus drivers join strike on Saturday

Jørn Eggum - Annstein GarnesPhoto: Terje Pedersen / NTB
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On Saturday, another 4,500 bus drivers in seven Norwegian counties will go on strike. There is still no contact between the employees and employers.

Bus traffic in Oslo and Viken has been virtually paralyzed for a week.

From the start of working hours on Saturday morning, the bus drivers in Vestland, Trøndelag, Rogaland, and Finnmark are joining the strike. 

The same holds true for drivers in large parts of Nordland and entire Kristiansand. 

Thus, large parts of public transport in Norway will be affected by the strike. 

In total, more than 4,500 new bus drivers are joining in – raising the total of people on strike to around 8,500. 

There is still no contact between the parties, according to employee organizations Fellesforbundet and Yrkestrafikkforbundet. 

There was also no contact during the week.

The four union organizations Yrkestrafikkforbundet, Fellesforbundet, Jernbaneforbundet, and Fagforbundet took the bus drivers in Oslo and Viken on strike on Sunday, September 20, after mediation efforts with NHO Transport and Spekter failed.

Further escalation

The four unions are threatening to mobilize all their members, close to 12,000 bus drivers across the country if no progress occurs. 

“An escalation would be natural in the long run,” communications manager Tormund Hansen Skinnarmo at Yrkestrafikkforbundet noted.

The striking bus drivers receive NOK 3,900 a week in strike support, with the exception of the drivers in the Fagforbundet, who receive 70% of their regular salary, according to FriFagbevegelse.

The bus drivers are demanding better pay and optimized work shifts. 

Fellesforbundet’s leader Jørn Eggum also emphasized the issue of the so-called split shifts.

Due to split shifts, drivers have unpaid leave in the middle of the day, which often leads to 70-hour workweeks, according to Fellesforbundet.

“70-hour workweeks are detrimental to health and give us tired bus drivers. When we also know that the drivers are constantly pressed for time, and even have to go all day without breaks and without going to the bathroom, that is a recipe for less safety – both for the drivers and everyone else in the traffic,” Eggum said.

Consequences for infection control

The Norwegian Board of Health Supervision (Statens helsetilsyn) announced on Monday that they are monitoring the strike among bus drivers to see if it leads to life and health being endangered. 

The coronavirus infection rates in Oslo have risen sharply in recent weeks. 

On Sunday, Oslo City Council chief Raymond Johansen (AP) stated that he was concerned about increased traffic congestion and infection in the capital. 

However, the Oslo area’s morning rush hour went on as usual on Monday, without noticeably increased traffic on the roads or increased congestion on trams, subways, and trains.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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