No merger between NHO and HSH

In May 2002, it was announced that the planned merger between NHO and HSH, Norway's two largest private sector employers' confederations, will not go ahead.

On 2 May 2002, the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon, NHO) and the Confederation of Norwegian Commercial and Service Enterprises (Handels- og Servicenæringens Hovedorganisasjon, HSH) announced in a joint press statement their decisions not to go ahead with a planned merger between the two organisations.

The plans for a merger between Norway's two largest private sector employers' confederations were made public on 27 February 2002 (NO0203102N). A joint steering committee was set up to prepare the merger, with the view to having the new organisation formally established as early as 1 January 2003. However, following almost two months of deliberation, the two organisations found that there was no basis for a merger. The joint steering committee pointed to the fact that there are significant differences between the two organisations in relation to both their organisational structures and their representation system and 'branch identity'. Thus it was deemed impossible to reach an agreement to form a new confederation. The joint steering committee recognised, however, that the interests of the two organisations do converge in many areas of industrial and employer policy. The committee thus recommended that NHO and HSH continue talks to strengthen and further develop collaborative efforts between the two organisations.

Media speculation seems to suggest that there has been significant internal tension within both organisations over the proposed merger (see Dagens Næringsliv on 14 March 2002 and Aftenposten on 23 April 2002). HSH throughout the deliberation process emphasised the creation of a new organisation with a new name. In NHO there was great reluctance about the proposed abolition of the NHO name and of its present organisational structure, for the purpose of merging with the much smaller HSH. NHO is an employers' confederation with 23 sectoral federations which enjoy substantial autonomy in many areas. Several of these organisations seem to have been opposed to an organisational model that would weaken the independent position of the sectoral federations. Members of HSH, on the other hand, feared that a merger would mean that the wholesale and retail trade sector would be overshadowed by the much larger NHO.

The two organisations do not always see eye-to-eye on important industrial policy issues, and recently HSH has sought to challenge NHO's dominant role as the representative of Norwegian employers and industry. Generally speaking, however, cooperation on the employer side in Norwegian working life has been strengthened in recent years, among other measures through regular meetings between the various confederations.

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