New teachers' union to be established

The creation of a new teachers' trade union was given its final approval at extraordinary national congresses of the Norwegian Union of Teachers and the Teachers' Union Norway, held in June 2001. The new merged organisation will be established on 1 January 2002, and will be Norway's third-largest union, with approximately 130,000 members.

At extraordinary national congresses held in June 2001, the Norwegian Union of Teachers (Norsk Lærerlag, NL) and the Teachers' Union Norway (Lærerforbundet) gave their final approval to a merger, creating a single new teachers' union (NO9904127N). A joint steering committee has been given a mandate to continue the merger process with a view to having the new organisation in place by 1 January 2002. The new organisation will have approximately 130,000 members, and will thus be the third-largest trade union in Norway. Furthermore, it will become the dominant organisation the educational sector, as the remaining teachers' unions have no more than 6,000 members.

The establishment of the new union marks the end of a long and tortuous process (NO9811196F), which started formally in March 1999. Since then, the issue has been through two membership ballots, and has been subject to thorough deliberations within both organisations. Despite a poor turn-out in the latest ballots held in March 2001, the merger proposal nevertheless received an overwhelming majority, and the result was reinforced at the extraordinary national congresses in June.

The two unions involved in the merger have somewhat different cultures and backgrounds. Lærerforbundet organises among teaching and administrative personnel in most parts of the Norwegian educational system, though a majority of its 39,000 members are teachers in the upper-secondary school system. NL, on the other hand, draws most of its members from the pre-school, primary and lower-secondary school system. The two have also traditionally had different wage and educational policy profiles. NL has been an advocate of equal pay and centralised wage formation, whereas Lærerforbundet has increasingly become more in favour of local or company-level wage formation. These differences have long affected the relationship between the two organisations. Although there was some early reluctance about the merger, at least within Lærerforbundet, the recent approval shows that most doubts have been put to rest. There is now a general recognition that the traditional differences between the two unions are no longer important, due to factors such as a more uniform national education system as a result of several educational reforms since the 1960s.

The issue of the new union's confederal affiliation remains to be settled. NL is involved in a cooperative venture with the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge, LO), but has remained an independent union, and it is likely, in the light of the merger, that it will reconsider its relationship with LO. With the dissolution of the Confederation of Norwegian Professional Associations (Akademikernes Fellesorganisasjon, AF) in May 2001 (NO0007199F), Lærerforbundet is also now an independent union, but has on previous occasions stated that it would not favour the new merged organisation being affiliated to LO. Furthermore, both NL and Lærerforbundet are involved in talks with the Norwegian Police Federation (Politiets Felleforbund, PF) and the Norwegian Nurses Association (Norsk Sykepleierforbund, NSF) about the possible creation of a new confederation in the public sector (NO0011110N). The proposed creation of the new confederation was not considered at the extraordinary congresses in June.

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