Covid 19 - It has been over 200 days since it started - when will it end?

On October 17, 2020 has been affected by Covid 19, 60% of the year. Over 200 days ago, large parts of the Nordic region closed down and most of our members were sent home. In recent times, there have been support packages for companies and measures to alleviate the situation of employees. However, we see no end to the crisis.

In the Nordic countries, tens of thousands of employees in hotels, restaurants and other tourism businesses are now laid off, either dismissed as redundant or in some way temporarily out of work. The support schemes in the Nordic countries are different, but overall, they largely take care of employees. But will this last until the situation is normal again? Will the authorities be able to continue payments to employees and companies if the crisis lasts until next summer?

The figures for tourism are almost incomprehensible. We have never been near a crisis that is so deep in modern times. The financial crisis in 2009 was serious, but compared to the Covid 19 crisis, just a "ripple". A reduction in activity of over 80%, with some improvement in July and August, is so pervasive that it is almost impossible to see how this can be compensated.

Upgrade workers

In several of our member countries, competence-enhancing measures have been initiated for laid-off and dismissed members. This is good. If we can use this time to upgrade the competence of the members, it will be good for both the members and the companies. We need to focus more on this.

Lifting the gaze is difficult

When the crisis strikes, we all become most concerned with saving ourselves. This applies to individuals, companies, and nations. Lifting the gaze and seeing oneself in a larger context does not happen until we have "our heads above water". It happened in the Nordics as well. The measures were different, the strategies were different. Some of the countries closed borders and businesses. Others chose a different strategy. This provided fertile ground for conflict, perhaps especially between Norway and Sweden. Despite claims from the authorities that there have been more than 50 meetings between the countries, important voices in the Nordic region believe that Nordic co-operation has suffered.

No tripartite co-operation on Nordic level?

Both the Nordic trade union organization, NFS, we in the Nordic Union HRCT and other Nordic unions wrote before the summer to the Nordic governments and the Nordic Council of Ministers calling for Nordic co-ordination and the establishment of a functional tripartite co-operation in the Nordic region. The Nordic Council of Ministers was positive in its response to the NFS; but only the Finnish government has responded NU-HRCT. They refer to their work in collaboration with PAM. None of the other governments have bothered to respond. We must state that the governments at the Nordic level do not see themselves benefiting from tripartite co-operation across national borders in the Nordic countries. We think that is unwise. One misses an opportunity for direct contact with the organizations and the processes it could have provided for strengthened Nordic co-operation in the various industries.

The new normal?

Post Corona tourism will be different. The question is what will change. Who can get back to normal business the fastest? Many now say that tourism should NOT be the same as before, that it must change to meet climate challenges and be more robust to meet changes in the future. There is talk of digitalization, changed travel patterns, that travelers will make other choices than before, travel shorter. What is right is that it SHOULD NOT return in the same way, with long-haul flights, with over-tourism, with pollution, with a cruise industry out of control. But what opportunities do we have to change that? Who will stand up to say: No - we do not want those tourists anymore; we do not want to receive hordes of long-distance travelers who is overflooding and littering the local community?

But we do not have much choice. Tourism cannot continue as before. We must follow up on the UN's sustainability goals and the Paris Agreement. Anything else will not be tolerated. The question is therefore how we can get authorities at all levels to work and set the framework for future tourism so that these goals can be achieved. The trade union movement's requirement must be that it must also be sustainable for employees. There must be secure jobs and jobs with a value creation that is possible to live on. In this area, we believe the authorities must take the lead and make demands on tourism so that the industry is forced to act in a sustainable way. If no management is taken, we are afraid it will be the strongest right and that large capital-strong international groups will take over the parts of tourism they believe are most profitable and that sustainability and workers will be the losers.

Our common requirements for authorities and employers

1. The support schemes must continue. No one should get into a situation where they do not have the finances to maintain a decent life. This must be done through the establishment of schemes based on the traditions of the various countries. Lay-off schemes, wage subsidies, support during unemployment must be kept at a reasonable level and extended in time until a more normal situation is returned.

2. Companies with survival potential must still receive support for further operations.

3. Recruitment of employees must take place in accordance with national legislation and agreements. Partial operations must not lead to unreasonable burdens on employees or the management of the companies entering into roles that should have been performed by employees.

4. Information and consultation with shop stewards must be maintained both at company level, in national and international chains and European works councils so that shop stewards can both be informed and used as the resource they are in the companies.

5. Companies and shop stewards in individual companies and in chains must work together to create trust that the products offered are safe for customers and employees. Nationally and internationally, campaigns should be launched that create security for customers. This should be done in collaboration with transport and airlines.

6. The Covid 19 crisis requires cross-border cooperation. The Nordic countries and the EU must jointly draw up guidelines for the opening of borders and protocols for health, safety and the environment with predictable measures to secure workers and guests.

7. The reopening of tourism must take place in a sustainable way. Authorities must take control of developments and ensure that incentives and taxes are used to achieve the UN's sustainability goals and the Paris Agreement's goals on climate emissions.


Nordisk Union
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The Nordic Union for Hotel, Restaurant, Catering and Tourism sector, is an association of unions in Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, all of which unionise workers of the HRCT industry. The member unions have all made collective agreements with employers organizations and companies in the NU HRCT.

All in all NU HRCT covers seven unions with a total of about 115,000 members.