New provisions in LO-NHO Basic Agreement complicate negotiations between YS and NHO

Download article in original language : NO9802152NNO.DOC

The revised Basic Agreement between Norway's LO trade union confederation and NHO employers' organisation was approved in February 1998. The attempt to extend the agreement's new provisions on the minimum level of members required for a union to enter into a collective agreement to other basic agreements, has led to complications in the negotiations between NHO and the YS vocational union confederation.

In November 1997, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge, LO) and the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon, NHO) agreed on a proposal for a revised Basic Agreement (NO9711134F). The revised agreement was approved by LO's general council and NHO's central board in February 1998. Basic agreements between the various confederations complement Norwegian labour law by defining principal goals, as well as laying down a set of principles and procedures that regulate the relationship between the labour market parties. Basic agreements are renegotiated under the peace clause, whereby industrial action is banned during the life of the agreement.

A new provision in the LO-NHO Basic Agreement regulating the number of members trade unions must have in order to demand a collective agreement, has led to complications in the Basic Agreement negotiations between the Confederation of Vocational Unions (Yrkesorganisasjonenes Sentralforbund, YS) and NHO. According to the new LO-NHO agreement, a trade union must organise at least 10% of the relevant employees before it can demand a collective agreement. If an enterprise is already bound by a collective agreement with another trade union, a new trade union must organise at least 30% of the employees before it can demand a collective agreement which covers the same group of employees. LO and NHO committed themselves to demanding similar provisions in other basic agreements to which they are party, among others the Basic Agreements between YS and NHO, and between LO and the Commercial Employers' Association (Handel- og servicenæringens Hovedorganisasjon, HSH).

YS has far fewer members than LO in NHO-affiliated enterprises, and sees the provision demanding 30% of employees in an enterprise already covered by a collective agreement as an attempt to undermine the YS-affiliated trade unions in favour of LO unions. The Basic Agreement negotiations between YS and NHO, which started in January 1998, soon came to a standstill, and YS wants to put the Basic Agreement provisions as an issue on the agenda during the wage bargaining round in spring 1998. This will make it possible to use the strike option if an agreement is not reached.

The Basic Agreement negotiations between LO and HSH are also being prolonged owing (among other factors) to disagreement concerning the new provisions on union representativeness. In the present Basic Agreement, the minimum level of members required to enter into a collective agreement is 50%. The implication of this is that it will be easier to demand a collective agreement if these regulations are changed in favour of those incorporated in the Basic Agreement between LO and NHO. The negotiations will resume at the beginning of March 1998.

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