Norway: Biannual sectoral collective bargaining round concluded

With most national agreements reached without industrial action, this article reports on the outcomes of the biannual sectoral bargaining round in Norway.

The biannual renegotiations of collective agreements started at the beginning of 2016, with most of the national sectoral agreements concluded in the second quarter, generally without industrial conflict. The peak-level bargaining between the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) was conducted at sectoral level (as opposed to the available option of central-level bargaining). The decision to do this was made by LO after its member unions failed to reach an internal agreement on a unified set of demands. Occupational pensions were a particularly difficult issue, both in LO internal discussions and in the subsequent bargaining round. Difficult renegotiations on occupational pensions were largely avoided when the government agreed to undertake a public inquiry on the issue, at the request of the social partners.

Most national agreements were reached without industrial action, except in the hotel and restaurant sector, where there was a four-week strike involving over 7,200 workers in more than 700 companies. This ended only when several other national trade unions were poised to come out in sympathy. Employers agreed to most of the demands by the Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions (Fellesforbundet); as well as a new right to local wage bargaining, they agreed to a comparatively high wage increase of NOK 4.85 (€0.54 as at 7 October 2016) per hour for those on the minimum wage, plus an average wage increase of 3%. A smaller strike was carried out by fuel delivery workers after negotiations failed between independent, non-party trade union Parat and the Federation of Norwegian Industries (Norsk Industri). The strike, which affected the fuel supply at several airports, was ultimately successful as the union’s demand for an increase in the agreed minimum wage was met; raised by 2.4% instead of the 1.6% increase offered by Norsk Industri before the strike began.

The negotiations in central public administration were especially difficult. Although agreement was reached without industrial conflict, the result altered the system of collective bargaining in the sector; the new agreements ended the traditional state practice of having identical collective agreements with the different national trade unions in the state administration. The Federation of Norwegian Professional Associations (Akademikerne) now has a separate agreement, under which much of its wage bargaining is to be conducted at local level, unlike the agreement with the rest of the trade unions. The remaining collective agreements in the state sector were also altered, increasing the importance of local-level bargaining – though the central level remains dominant under these agreements.

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