Green light for new union confederation
In autumn 2000, the national conferences of the four Norwegian trade unions considering the creation of a new confederation gave their leaders a mandate to take the process further. In October 2000, the two teachers' unions involved also decided to continue their parallel process of considering a possible merger.
The four trade unions involved in talks over the creation of a new confederation - the Norwegian Union of Teachers (Norsk Lærerlag, NL), the Teachers' Union Norway (Lærerforbundet), the Norwegian Nurses' Association (Norsk Sykepleierforbund, NSF) and the Norwegian Police Federation (Politiets Fellesforbund, PF) - held their national conferences between September and November 2000. At all four conferences, delegates gave their union leaders a mandate to continue considering the establishment of a new public sector confederation (NO0009106F). In October, NL and Lærerforbundet also decided to continue the process of examining a possible merger to create a larger teachers' organisation (NO9904127N).
News of the talks over a possible new confederation had emerged following the decision of the Confederation of Norwegian Professional Associations (Akademikernes Fellesorganisasjon, AF) to end its involvement in a planned merger with the Norwegian Confederation of Vocational Unions (Yrkesorganisasjonenes Sentralforbund, YS) (NO0006195N), and to dissolve itself in 2001 (NO0007199F).
The approval given by the members of the four unions involved means that the deliberation process is entering a new phase, with a more thorough examination of issues such as the new confederation's name, the content of its political platform and its organisational structure. If and when established, the new confederation will organise approximately 200,000 members, and as such will be the largest union organisation in the state sector, and the third-largest union confederation in Norway. It is an express aim of all four organisations to avoid creating a centralised confederation with a large administrative secretariat, and that its main focus of activity will be limited to wage and incomes policy, and international activity. The four unions have already made the decision to exclude other organisations from the initial setting-up phase, and also that other organisations may be included at a later stage only insofar as there are no possibilities of them joining the four original unions. This seems to be a deliberate attempt to prevent an organisational structure that involves a number of small member organisations.
The main reasoning behind the proposed creation of a new teachers' union is a growing convergence of interests between the two main teachers' organisations, NL and Lærerforbundet. Furthermore, the process has also been encouraged by converging views with regards to incomes policy and the need to improve the working conditions and status of teachers in Norway. The new teachers' organisation would be divided into five sections; pre-school teachers; primary and lower-secondary school teachers; upper-secondary school teachers; teachers in higher education; and school principals/leaders. The new organisation would organise approximately 130,000 employees, with primary and lower-secondary school teachers making up the largest membership group.
Ballots are to be held in all four unions before the establishment of a new confederation takes place and also, within NL and Lærerforbundet, over the creation of a merged teachers' union. The intention is to have both organisations in operation from 1 January 2002. Since there will be no central wage negotiations during the spring of 2001, the organisations will have sufficient time to get the new confederation in place before the 2002 wage settlement.