Weekend walkout? Dozens of workers at Mine 7, Svea may join nationwide strike starting Sunday


Fifty-three Store Norske employees working at Mine 7 and Svea may go on strike starting Sunday as part of a nationwide labor walkout involving at least 35,000 workers, a local mining manager told Svalbardposten on Wednesday.

“How many will actually walk out we do not know before the strike is a reality,” Per Nilssen, manager at Mine 7, told the newspaper. There are about 30 employees at the mine and 20 at Svea who are members of the Norwegian Union of General Workers.

Mine 7 supplies coal to Longyearbyen’s power plan, but Nilssen said there is a “pretty big stock” of 14,000 tons of coal available in storage facilities.

“That’s about half a year of consumption,” he told Svalbardposten.

The mine, currently high in the national profile due to being featured in a ten-part TV reality show airing on TV2, is Store Norske’s only one still in operation as the company has ceased virtually all coal mining activity and laid off nearly all of its workers during the past few years. Svea, where the last large-scale mining took place, is currently being used for limited tourism purposes and the infrastructure there is scheduled to be dismantled during the next few years.

Norway’s two main unions and the country’s employer organization are scheduled to start four days of mediation Wednesday to reach a new collective bargaining agreement on wages and pensions affecting about about 250,000 workers. Talks broke down last month, with pensions and early retirement rights cited as the most contentious issues.

Union officials have stated the initial strike with a small percentage of total workers represented would not include major oil industry activities, but would include a number of industries ranging from metal production to shipyards to beer production.