Industrial relations

Norway: Latest developments in working life Q3 2019

The appointment of a committee with representatives from the social partners, the outcome of a strike by bicycle couriers, and a verdict in a court case on the employment relationship of care workers are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Norway in the third quarter of 2019.

Government committee investigates future employment relationships

In August, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Anniken Hauglie invited social partners to join together in a committee to investigate the regulation of different types of employment relationships and business models in the future Norwegian labour market. The committee consists of representatives from trade unions and employer organisations, three neutral experts and the committee leader, lawyer Jan Fougner.

The committee will explore relevant trends and assess the regulations and boundaries between different forms of employment relationships. It will consider whether legislative terms, including the concept of ‘employee’, are clear and appropriate, and may propose amendments to legislation or other measures.

The government stressed that the development of employment relationships and new business models is an international issue, pointing to the recent report from the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work and to the OECD report Policy Responses to New Forms of Work. [1]

Strike leads to collective agreement for bicycle couriers

Foodora, an international food delivery service, employs more than 600 bicycle couriers in Norway. In August, over 100 of these couriers went on a five-week strike over the demand for a collective agreement. The couriers are represented by the Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions (Fellesforbundet), while Foodora is not organised. [2]

The strike ended on 27 September, when a public mediator helped both parties to reach an agreement. The CEO of Foodora in Norway, Carl Tengberg, called it a ‘modern [collective] agreement, fit for our industry’. [3]

The agreement entitles the couriers to a minimum wage (approximately €12–14), a supplement for seniority, a winter supplement payable for three months and a per-delivery bicycle equipment allowance. The agreement also includes an early retirement pension scheme negotiated between the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO). [4]

Implications of platform work for working conditions

Platform work is still uncommon in Norway, but is expected to see significant growth in the future. [5] The Foodora strike gained national attention and sparked debate as it highlighted the challenges that platform workers face when it comes to securing decent pay and a safe work environment. [6] There is limited information available about the working conditions for platform workers, but bicycle couriers are often young, unskilled and receive limited financial support to maintain their work equipment. A lack of maintenance can increase the risk caused by hazardous working conditions (for example, poor weather), with young workers being particularly vulnerable.

The National Institute of Occupational Health (STAMI) national surveillance system for working environments and occupational health shows that workers under the age of 25 are more than twice as likely to suffer an injury at work that leads to absence (2.6%) than all workers (1.4%). [7] In addition, one of the occupational groups with the highest incidence of workplace injury is transport/warehouse workers (5%), which includes couriers.

The dispute can be considered a test of the adjustment to future working arrangements, such as platform work.

Social partners debate court case on employment relationship of care workers

During the spring of 2019, a trial over the employment relationship of care workers in assisted living facilities owned by Aleris (now Stendi) filled the courtroom for several months. Aleris had hired many of the care workers as self-employed staff, but the workers – with the support of the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees (Fagforbundet) – claimed that they were employees and therefore entitled to working time regulations and overtime pay. The court found 12 of the 24 care workers to be employees. Some of the workers who lost the case decided to appeal to a higher court.

The finding of the court was discussed extensively and the case shows that the legal definition of ‘employment’ is disputed and may be unclear. The issue was previously raised in a 2017 report from the Sharing Economy Committee. [8] In the same year, the LO recommended including all contractual forms that need protection in the legal concept of ‘employees’, and making the concept more precise and technology-neutral. [9] The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), however, wanted to keep the legal concept of employees the same. [10]

Whether or not to amend the legislation will be a question for political debate and addressed by the committee mentioned above.


Footnotes

  1. ^ OECD (2019), Policy responses to new forms of work , OECD Publishing, Paris.
  2. ^ FriFagbevegelse (2019), LO reagerer på Foodoras innleie av bud under streiken , 17 September.
  3. ^ Norge (2019), Foodora-streiken er avsluttet – ble enige om tariffavtale etter 14 timers mekling , 27 September.
  4. ^ Fellesforbundet (2019), Industry agreement 2018–2020 .
  5. ^ Alsos, K., Jesnes, K. and Sletvold Øistad, B. (2018), ‘ Når sjefen er en app – delingsøkonomi i et arbeidsperspektiv ’, Praktisk økonomi & finans, Vol. 34, No. 2.
  6. ^ Foodora (2019), Arbeidskonflikt i foodora .
  7. ^ STAMI (2018), Nasjonal overvåking av arbeidsmiljø .
  8. ^ Ministry of Finance (2017), NOU 2017:4 Delingsøkonomien – muligheter og utfordringer , 6 February.
  9. ^ Ministry of Finance (2017), Høyring NOU 2017:4 Delingsøkonomien – muligheter og utfordringer , 25 April.
  10. ^ NHO (2017), NOU 2017:4 Delingsøkonomien – muligheter og utfordringer , 8 May.

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