EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Norway: Latest working life developments – Q3 2017

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Parliamentary elections giving a mandate to the centre-right coalition to continue in government, an act covering state employees, and a report on health and safety issues in the petroleum sector 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 2017.

Parliamentary elections give renewed basis for centre-right coalition

Parliamentary elections took place in Norway in September 2017. Prime Minister Erna Solberg, a member of the Conservative Party (Høyre) had been in office since the previous election in 2013, in coalition with the right-wing populist Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet). This coalition had formed a majority government with the centrist parties, the Liberals (Venstre) and the Christian Democrats (KrF).

Since the elections, Venstre has been in negotiations with the coalition in order to enter into the new government, while KrF has announced that it will not enter into any formal collaboration with the new government. Even though the leading coalition’s majority was reduced from that of the 2013 election, the result was disappointing for the centre-left coalition led by the social-democratic Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet), which had been ahead in the polls until the last few weeks before the election. As soon as the talks with Venstre are over, the new government will announce its programme for the coming four years.

New act for state employees in force 

The Act on State Employees of 16 June 2017 came into force in July, replacing the Civil Servants Act of 1983. The Act is based on a report by a tripartite commission (PDF) and a proposition from the government (PDF) from April 2017, which argued the need for a new act because of the changes in society, as well as within the state administration.

The Act contains many of the regulations found in its predecessor and codified law, but it does weaken the position of employers in some ways in that they will have less influence on decisions to hire new employees, and also that employment protection has been reduced. This is in line with protection for employees in the private sector and in local municipalities.

Challenges to safety in the petroleum sector

The health, safety and working environment in the Norwegian petroleum industry has improved, and the level of safety in the industry is now high. However, there have been challenges to safety and some serious incidents have occurred in the past two years. A recent report from a working group of interested parties and government agencies provides a comprehensive overview of issues related to major accidents (PDF), and the working environment offshore and onshore plants.

As previously reported in the fourth quarter country update of 2016, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs invited interested parties and government agencies to join a working group for a joint assessment of and discussion on health, safety and working environment conditions and trends in the Norwegian petroleum industry. The group has also assessed what is required to maintain and improve the level of safety, while also achieving efficient and economic operation. The views of employers, employees and the government authorities on the status, challenges and possible routes to continued development and improvement, will serve as input to a new White Paper for the Norwegian Parliament on health, safety and the working environment in the petroleum industry.

Comment

It is no surprise that the parliamentary elections have been the main focus of this quarter. As the centre-left coalition did not manage to secure a majority of the seats in Parliament, the election is also seen as a big disappointment for the Norwegian Confederation of Trade unions (LO) as it put a lot of resources into supporting Labour’s election campaign, and had great hopes for the politics of the new government. As the current government is to return to office, LO will have to change its strategy in order to gain support for its initiatives from the government and parliament in the coming four years.

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