AF elects new leader

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Following the resignation of the incumbent, Aud Blankholm was elected as the new leader of the Federation of Norwegian Professional Associations (AF) on 28 January 1999. Rule changes and an evaluation of union policies were also approved by the troubled union confederation's representative committee.

Aud Blankholm was elected as the new president of the Federation of Norwegian Professional Association (Akademikernes Fellesorganisasjon, AF) at an extraordinary meeting of the representative committee held on 28 January 1999. Ms Blankholm succeeds Magne Songvoll, who had been AF's leader for the past 16 years. The new deputy leader is Martin Bjerke from the Norwegian Association of Pharmacists (Norges Farmaceutiske Forening). The committee also considered and approved rule changes as well as an evaluation of union policies.

Ms Blankholm was general secretary of the Norwegian Nurses' Association (Norsk Sykepleierforbund, NSF), and was also union president some years ago. Before that, she was head of the Department of Employers' Affairs in the Ministry of Labour and Government Administration, which is the state's central employer authority for negotiating pay and working conditions for state employees.

Mr Songvoll's decision to resign from office, which was made public in December 1998, must be seen in the light of recent defections from AF. The confederation has witnessed a dramatic drop in its membership base in the last few years, as several large organisations have left to form the new confederation, Akademikerne (NO9807174F). The latest, the Norwegian Society of Engineers (Norges Ingeniørorganisasjon, NITO) decided to leave on 18 February 1999 (NO9811198N), which means that AF's membership base has now been reduced to 115,642 members. A majority of the breakaway associations are organisations for university graduate employees, and of those remaining, a majority are advanced college graduates.

AF's representative committee initiated an internal evaluation of the organisation's situation early in 1998, and established a project group to look at three areas of concern: pay negotiations; AF's economic foundation and resource situation; and local branch activity and organisation. The member associations were asked to contribute to this process. The findings of the group formed the basis for the new rule changes approved in January 1999.

The election of Aud Blankholm as president of AF means that women now head three out of four Norwegian union confederations. In October 1998, An-Magritt Aanonsen was elected president of Akademikerne, while the Confederation of Vocational Unions (Yrkesorganisasjonens Sentralorganisasjon, YS) is headed by Randi Bjørgen.

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