YS joins international trade union bodies

Over the course of 2002 and 2003, the Norwegian Confederation of Vocational Unions (YS), has joined a number of international trade union organisations at the Nordic, European, and global level. In May 2003, YS participated for the first time in the European Trade Union Confederation's statutory congress.

In May 2003, the white-collar Confederation of Vocational Unions (Yrkesorganisasjonenes Sentralforbund, YS) participated for the first time in the statutory congress of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), held in Prague. Over the previous year or so, YS had joined international trade union organisations at the Nordic, European and global level - ie the Council of Nordic Trade Unions (Norden Faglige Samorganisasjon, NFS), ETUC, and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). YS had long aspired to become a member of these organisations, and its leader, Randi Bjørgan, stated in a press release that she was delighted finally to be able to represent YS at the ETUC congress. She emphasised in her speech at the congress that the issues facing Norwegian trade unions are also important issues in other countries, and that the congress confirmed the value of cooperation to tackle these issues through the European trade union movement.

ETUC membership enables YS to join the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge, LO) in participating in the central social dialogue at the EU level, including negotiations over European framework agreements signed by ETUC, which may be implemented by EU Directives (EU0303101F). Norway is required, according to the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement, to implement these agreements/Directives. The Norwegian social partners’ opportunity to participate in preparing the mandates for, and the actual negotiation of, these agreements is seen as important. Increased internationalisation in other areas - including a more open labour market and internationalisation of ownership structures – is leading trade unions to give significant attention to their international responsibilities in ETUC, ICFTU and other bodies.

LO was for a long time the only Norwegian trade union confederation represented in NFS, ETUC and ICFTU. Membership of these organisations was, according to informal norms, not an option for YS and other white-collar confederations without the support of LO. In the mid-1990s however the Confederation of Norwegian Professional Associations (Akademikernes Fellesorganisasjon, AF) became a member of these international bodies. AF was later dissolved (NO0007199F). Neither of the two current confederations for employees with higher education, the Federation of Norwegian Professional Associations (Akademikerne) and the Confederation of Higher Education Unions (Utdanningsgruppenes Hovedorganisasjon, UHO), are at present members of any of the international trade union umbrella organisations. The situation in Norway thus differs from the rest of the Nordic countries, where unions for white-collar and academically qualified workers joined the international organisations at an earlier stage. The peculiarity of the Norwegian situation is mainly due to the fact that relations between LO and the other confederations have, in important areas, been more tense than those between such organisations in the other Nordic countries. As opposed to the situation in the other Nordic countries, there are no clear demarcation line between confederations unionising blue-collar workers and those organising white-collar and academically qualified workers. There has thus been a significant degree of competition over the same employee groups between the confederations.

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