Stronger oversight of working conditions in Svalbard vital, labor minister says during visit
Recent problems including numerous workplace violations during a local hotel renovation and widespread complaints from tourism guides are examples of why tighter oversight and enforcement of labor laws are necessary, Norwegian Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Anniken Hauglie told about 150 business and other officials during a meeting this week. “We are here to inform you that we will step up the supervisory activity in Svalbard,” she said.” When I return to Oslo I will ask for a review of all laws and regulations that apply to working life to see if some of them should also be introduced for Svalbard.” An audit of a major renovation of the Radisson Polar Blu Polar Hotel completed earlier this year found various contractors were violating safety and work hour requirements, and guides for the past two years have complained they are often forced to work exceptionally long hours without overtime pay – and sometimes no pay at all – and have been consulting with labor officials about forming a union. Tourism in Svalbard has increased by more than 1,000 percent during the period 2004–2017. It is more than twice as much as the best county on the mainland.
New folk high school gets big boost in initial funding
A new folk high school in Longyearbyen scheduled to begin this fall is slated to receive 12.5 million kroner in Norway’s revised national budget for next year, five million kroner more than originally allocated. “This will be an important school for Norway’s Svalbard politics,” said Minister of Research and Higher Education Iselin Nybø after meeting with local school officials this week. “It will create new jobs and increase the proportion of Norwegian residents. In addition, it has a clear environmental and sustainability profile, and it is important in view of Svalbard’s central role in the climate and environmental debate.” The school is approved for 125 students and 25 employees are expected to work there. Subjects such as outdoor life, music, photography and research will be featured, with the environment and sustainability emphasized within the fields.