Friday, June 04, 2010

May I Bitch About The Strike For Just A Moment Here?

You won't have heard, because you don't live here, and you probably don't care, but there's a huge strike afoot in Bergen.  It was sort of cramping my style last Friday when it started.  Now, a week later, I'm just plain pissed off, and ready to start smacking sense into people.

The teachers have been called out on strike.  Our school (and a handful of others around the city) shut down last Friday.  All the other schools closed as of Wednesday.  A whole week this thing has lasted, and there doesn't seem to be any rush to get it sorted out before a whole 'nuther week passes.

As a child of educators (or, former educators, I should say), I know I should have more sympathy.  But here's the thing.  The strike isn't about education, or any specific complaints modern educators tend to have: crowded classrooms, insufficient materials, the slow attrition of fine arts and humanities electives.  These are problems I could easily get behind.  But none of that is what this strike is about.  It's about money, of course.  But not specifically teacher's salaries.  It's to do with the entire pool of money allocated by the federal government to the kommune, and how much of that pool is set aside to pay the salaries of municipal employees.  I think.  The municipal government (the kommune) says they've given enough of the pool to salaries.  The unions representing the municipal employees say, 'No, actually, we want more.'  The kommune says, 'But no.  Seriously.  You have enough.'  The uppity unions say, 'Enough is never enough.  We want more.'  And so on and so forth.  The teachers were just chosen to fight this fight because closing schools and kommune-run barnehages is inconvenient and, presumably, a very effective pressure point.

I think.

Meh--this whole rant is hopelessly half-baked right from the get-go, because to be honest, I don't really understand the way unions work here.  All I know for sure is, they're very large, and they're very powerful.  Powerful enough that the prospect of a two to three week strike sounds like a grand way to make a point.  To hell with the children and the two or more weeks of education they'll be missing out on!  But forcing thousands of families to scramble to find alternative day-care?  That's our ticket public sympathy and support.  Hell yeah!

However, I have yet to talk to anyone who has any sympathy whatsoever for the union in this particular strike.  Big babies.  Knock it off, and open the damn schools again!

It's not just the teachers that have been pulled out on strike though.  There's a handful of city offices that have shut down, as well as the people who run the big smelter thingy at the city dump.  The upshot of that one being--no garbage pick up. 

Quite honestly, if this thing breaks earlier than expected, I think it's going to be the garbage issue (rather than thousands of languishing, instruction-less children) that does it.  It's turned warm and sunny here in the past few weeks.  Garbage bins everywhere are filled to overflowing.  The one right outside Missy's barnehage* is more than a week overdue now, and it smells so bad they're limiting the kids' outside playtime.  Hurricanes, and minus 30 degree weather don't deter Norwegians from their outside playtime.  But a week without garbage removal does.  Experts are warning of a rat explosion.  Articles in the paper are featuring tourists registering disgust and rueful disappointment in the state of the city's streets.  It won't be borne.  Something must be done.  Eventually.  Just as soon as they get their damn money......

*Missy's barnehage is privately owned and operated, and is therefore not part of the strike.  It's still opened.


Anonymous said...

I feel your pain, but, just imagine how bad it would be if this strike had been in the middle of the school year. I know I don't have any children in the school system here, THANK GOD, but isn't this the time of year that the kids are out on various day trips? Please correct me if I am wrong. However, no matter when there is a strike in the education system, it is never good and it is ultimately the students who suffer. (And the parents of course)!

And as for the garbage problem. Well, you guys, and I mean my dear alien friends, are always giving me grief about living outside Bergen kommune. All I have to say is that our garbage is still being collected. It is not always an advantage to live in the city, you know!

Your true blue Newfie friend

Amy said...

OMG, that is disgusting. So sorry!!