Nordic trade union formed at Nordea

Nordea, the Nordic financial services company, intends to be one of the first multinationals to make use of the European Company Statute, which came into force in October 2004. With Nordea thus planning to operate at overall European level, four trade unions organising its employees in the Nordic countries have formed a single transnational Nordea trade union organisation in response.

In October 2004, the European Company Statute came into force (EU0206202F), allowing for the creation of a new type of company incorporated at European level. These European Companies may be set up in various ways, including the transformation of an existing EU-based company with subsidiaries in another Member State. Nordea, the leading financial services group in the Nordic and Baltic Sea region - currently listed on the Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen stock exchanges - has announced its intention to be one of the first companies to take on the new European Company form, though no date has been fixed yet.

Nordic financial sector trade unions operating in Nordea have responded to the company's plans by forming a new Nordic trade union, Nordea Union. According to Nils Q Kruse, the vice-president of the Danish Nordea union organisation: 'We are experiencing that Nordea acts as united party - and this means that we also have to cooperate across national frontiers. We in the trade unions cannot think nationally while the banks are thinking globally. If we do so, we will be bypassed.' The prospect of Nordea becoming a European Company has, from the union viewpoint, created a need for a trade union domiciled in several countries that can safeguard the interests of Nordea employees irrespective of which Nordic country they work in.

A factor in the action of the Nordea trade unions is that the employee involvement Directive (2001/86/EC) accompanying the European Company Statute requires, prior to the establishment of a European Company, an agreement between management and employee representatives on the information, consultation and board-level worker participation arrangements to apply. According to Mr Kruse, the employee rights bestowed by the Directive improve on the possibilities existing so far in transnational companies.

Nordea already has overall joint cooperation bodies, both at the central level and within its individual business divisions. These transnational structures deal with issues such as the working environment, stress, training and strategic development - though pay and other employment conditions are still decided at national level. The employee representatives are also consulted on the preparations when Nordea enterprises move their activities from one country to another or outsource activities. Nordea employees have already experienced outsourcing of jobs, for instance when Nordea and IBM formed a joint venture to deal with information technology development at Nordea. The trade unions cooperated to obtain collective agreements in the new company, in which IBM is the largest shareholder.

'The global development means that we have to relate to traditions in other countries. The task is to improve and extend the agreements in the fields of co-determination and employee involvement. We also wish to have clear rules for procedures in connection with interpretation and possible breaches of agreements, ie a model for settlement of disputes', says Mr Kruse. This type of rules does not currently exist.

The new Nordea Union already has 35,000 members in the Nordic countries. The unions involved have obtained EU support for a project that includes the training of elected employee representatives for transnational activities. In the longer-term perspective, the new Nordea Union will also seek to organise workers in Nordea operations in the Baltic countries and Poland. Presently, the four Nordic finance unions are helping their colleagues in the new EU Member States to organise and conclude collective agreements with Nordea. This work is supported by the EU.

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