Private sector unions agree to cooperate

The Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions, affiliated to the LO confederation, and the Norwegian Society of Engineers, which is soon to leave the AF confederation, concluded an agreement to collaborate in summer 1999.

The Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions (Fellesforbundet) and the Norwegian Society of Engineers (Norges Ingeniørforbund, NITO) have concluded an agreement to collaborate. Fellesforbundet is the largest member union in the private sector of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge, LO), and unionises among others blue-collar workers in large parts of manufacturing industry as well as the building and construction sector. NITO has approximately 45,000 members, 60% of whom work in the private sector. NITO is leaving its present confederation, the Confederation of Norwegian Professional Associations (Akademikernes Fellesorganisasjon, AF) at the end of 1999, and has so far not made clear its future confederal affiliation (NO9901111N). It is doubtful that NITO regards LO as an option in this regard, although the cooperation agreement with Fellesforbundet shows an expressed willingness to strengthen its cooperation with LO in the private sector. The two organisations have cooperated on an informal basis for a long time.

The agreement does not include wage issues, but paves the way for cooperation on a wide variety of other matters. The main areas for collaboration are issues concerning industrial policy matters, co-determination, the legal and collective framework, and international activity. The leadership of the two organisations is to meet regularly, and an important ambition is to strengthen cooperation at company level. It is emphasised that local cooperation is important in those cases where both organisations are represented on company boards or other bodies with employee representation.

The two unions are members of the Nordic and European metalworkers' federations, and agree that economic developments necessitate active participation by the trade union movement on the international scene. There is also reason to believe that industrial policy and issues of employment are important areas of future cooperation between the two organisations. LO and its affiliated unions have traditionally been actively engaged in industrial policy matters. The two organisations also emphasise local and central coordination of opinions with regards to issues such as co-determination, and alterations to the legal framework as well as collective agreements.

The competition among the main union confederations has often limited cooperation among affiliated organisations both centrally and within companies. Early in the 1990s, LO and AF entered into a cooperation agreement. The agreement with Fellesforbundet seems to suggest that NITO want to continue this cooperative venture after it has left AF.

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