OSLO, Norway — “We are on strike because we can’t live on our low wages,” Rauf Husain, a local bus drivers’ union leader here, told the Militant. “Everything we buy has gone up, and our wages haven’t kept up.”
In the most important national strike in over 20 years, 8,500 bus drivers in four unions shut down bus transportation Sept. 26 in Norway. They are fighting for a living wage and more time to check the safety of the buses they drive.
The various employers under the national NHO Transport federation say that declining income due to the coronavirus means they cannot give the bus drivers a wage increase. They threatened the unions with layoffs.
Ninety percent of bus drivers in Oslo are immigrants, from 87 countries. Strikers here at the Jernkroken bus terminal, base for 450 drivers, were eager to tell the Militant Sept. 26 about the myriad problems they face on the job.
Inamulhaq Inam, a bus driver for four years, said the unions won agreement from employers in 2007 to gradually increase bus drivers’ wages to the level of industrial workers. “They have not lived up to the agreement,” he said. “With three children, I can’t live on” wages of only 24,000 kroner a month ($2,600).
The drivers work split shift, and those that live outside of Oslo have to pay tolls four times a day to drive to and from work in the morning and afternoon, Ahmed Abdelkefi, an immigrant from Tunisia, pointed out.
In response to the employers’ claim of budget woes, Husain said that the company bosses make “over 3 million kroner a year. It is we who do the work. They believe we are slaves.” He concluded, “We are going to hold out until we win our demands.”