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On 25 October, the Norwegian Nurses Organisation (NSF) took 55 nurses working at patient hotels and rehabilitation centers out on strike against The Association of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) when negotiations failed.
NSF demanded that nurses under the NSF tariff agreement with NHO receive the same minimum wage and sick-leave benefits as nurses employed in healthcare institutions operated directly by the municipalities. The 55 striking nurses were strategically chosen to hurt healthcare institutions financially without jeopardizing health and safety.
Most municipalities are organised under the tariff agreement between the NSF and the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS). However, some municipalities have outsourced their municipal health services (long term care, home health care etc.) to the private sector. Many of these private sector operators have shifted employers’ association to NHO in hopes of a cheaper tariff agreement with lower wage scale and benefits. The settlement offered to NSF by NHO in this year’s negotiations would mean dumping of nurses’ wages and working conditions compared to other tariff agreements - and could potentially recruit other employers to NHO.
Even under the municipal tariff agreement with KS, NSF is fighting for equal pay. Nurses - a predominantly female profession--lag behind in pay, in general earning only 85% of the average wage in male dominated jobs. NSF has found examples of healthcare institutions paying nurses NOK 30,000 - 100,000 (€3200-10,000) less than they would have been paid in municipally operated institutions.
The NSF cannot accept that NHO companies make their profit at the expense of nurses, says NSF President Eli Gunhild By.
On 15 November, the NHO announced lockout for all 501 NSF members under this tariff agreement, the first ever lockout in Norwegian healthcare—putting the lives of very ill patients at risk. At this point the Norwegian government had no other choice and were forced to step into the conflict on 20 November, announcing forced arbitration that ended the NHO lockout of nurses and the NSF strike.