More than 30,000 public-sector staff kicked off an indefinite strike for improved pay in Norway on Thursday morning, shutting down hundreds of kindergartens and schools in the middle of exam season.
The Labour government pushed Norwegian state workers to take their first strike in 28 years by refusing to raise their wages in line with increases enjoyed by their private-sector peers.
Nursing homes and health care services were either closed or operating on a skeleton staff after pay talks collapsed.
And policemen and other state and municipal council employees formed picket lines outside their offices.
Staff based at the Met office in western Norway honoured the action, leaving residents of some counties to make do without their TV or radio weather forecasts.
Chief union negotiator Arne Johannessen said: "We cannot accept that the pay gap with the private sector continues to increase."
Mr Johannessen noted that private-sector staff are expected to receive an increase of 4.3 per cent this year, compared to 3.75 per cent offered to state employees.
"No-one would have believed we would have a major strike in the public sector under a centre-left government," he declared.
"Norway is doing well - the private sector cannot disappear off while our sector bears the cost of a good welfare state again and again."
Government Administration Minister Rigmor Aasrud said she was disapointed that no agreement had been reached through negotiation.
Ms Aasrud claimed that the government's proposal would have "ensured a significant purchasing power increase to all state employees."
And she said that the government's hands had been tied by "the uncertain and unstable situation in the global economy and especially in Europe."
But Mr Johannessen advised the government to resume talks with a renewed sense of responsibility.
"It's not just workers who are losing out as a result of this action, but all who rely on good public services.
"Higher wages are necessary to ensure enough qualified workers now and in the future."
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