Norway: Latest working life developments – Q4 2017

A campaign against violence in the health and social sector, payment of the minimum wage in hotels and restaurants, and a protest over temporary workers in construction are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Norway in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Campaign against violence at work in the health and social sector

Data from the National Surveillance System for Work Environment and Occupational Health show that each year about 7% of employees who participated in the Norwegian working life survey in 2009–2013 had been exposed to violence and threat situations; this is equivalent to around 200,000 people nationally. Employees in the health and social sector are particularly at risk. The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority (Arbeidstilsynet) has launched a campaign aimed specifically at employers and employees in the health and social sector, although its messages are relevant to other sectors where violence and threats are prevalent. The campaign consists of:

  • a short film showing various types of violence and threat events typical of the health and social sector;
  • video interviews with employers and employees who tell about their experiences;
  • advice on how to (and should) work to prevent incidents.

In addition to this campaign, the Authority has conducted inspections at a number of workplaces in the health and social sector. New provisions in the Norwegian Working Environment Act aimed at preventing and handling violence and threats of violence in the workplace came into force on 1 January 2017.

Minimum wages for staff in all hotels and restaurants

On 3 November 2017, the Tariff Board decided to make the collective agreement (Riksavtalen) applicable to all hotels and restaurants following a request from the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO). In accordance to the Act on General Applicable Collective Agreements, an agreement can be made generally applicable if it is proved that foreign employees are paid less and their working conditions are poorer than those of Norwegian-born employees. The decision means that all hotels and restaurants have to respect the collectively agreed hourly minimum wage of NOK 157.18 (€16.32 as at 18 January 2018). The agreement also includes maximum fees for staff board and lodging.

The decision from the Tariff Board was carried unanimously, as it was also supported by the board member appointed by the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises (NHO). In the consultation round, the trade unions supported the decision while the employer organisations NHO Reiseliv (affiliated to NHO), the Enterprise Federation of Norway (Virke) and Spekter argued against it.

Political strike against temporary agencies

On 15 November 2017, several local trade unions affiliated to LO organised a political strike against the use of temporary work agencies in the construction industry in the Oslofjord region. The aim was to put pressure on the government to make use of temporary work agencies illegal in the construction industry in this region. The trade unions argued that temporary agency workers were meant to replace employees on sick leave and leave of absence, but it had led to major use of casual workers. The trade unions claim that:

  • temporary work agencies are the largest employer at several construction sites in the Oslofjord region;
  • temporary agency workers displace employees on permanent contracts;
  • they have variable wages and poor working conditions, and no guaranteed annual income.

Other arguments put forward by the unions include:

  • lack of apprenticeships within the temporary work agencies;
  • the use of temporary workers leads to poorer productivity and daily infringements of regulations on working time and overtime pay.

Commentary

The political strike feeds into an ongoing debate about the regulation of temporary agency work in Norway. The government is considering new regulations designed to prevent the misuse of temporary agency workers, while trade unions within the construction sector are demanding a ban on their use. A bill aiming to limit the use of temporary agency workers without pay between assignments and in situations where they replace employees on permanent contracts went out to consultation in the third quarter of 2017. The government has so far not decided how to go forward, but is expected to present a bill to parliament during spring 2018.

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