Trend-setting collective agreement reached

On 15 April 2012, social partners in the so-called trend-setting trades, which make up the major parts of manufacturing industries, concluded a new collective agreement for 2012 to 2014, setting a framework for other sectors. The agreement awards a pay increase for all employees covered, as well as the right to two weeks’ paid paternity leave to be taken at or close to the time of a child’s birth. The parties also agreed new provisions regulating temporary agency work.

Wage settlement 2012

Over the course of spring 2012, all biennial collective agreements covering working life in Norway were renegotiated. The wage settlement round began in March 2012 with the so-called ‘trend-setting trades’, which are the industries most vulnerable to international competition.

In 2012, this has involved companies in the metal and textile industries.

Negotiations take place between the Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions (Fellesforbundet), a member of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), and the Federation of Norwegian Industries (Norsk Industri), which is affiliated to the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO).

The results of these negotiations establish the normative framework for negotiations in other sectors.

General pay increase and paid paternity leave

With the help of the state mediator, the social partners reached a new collective agreement (in Norwegian, 1.79Mb PDF) on 15 April. It set a general pay increase of NOK 1.25 (€0.17) per hour. Further pay negotiations will be carried out at company level.

Within the textile industry, which is considered to be a low-wage agreement area, additional pay increases were awarded. Pay rates established in the collective agreements, including minimum wage rates, were also revised.

The social partners agreed to merge four wage agreements, including the manufacturing industry agreement, to create a new ‘industry agreement’.

Fellesforbundet succeeded in getting employers to support its demand for two weeks’ paid paternity leave for fathers at the birth of a child. Norwegian fathers already have a statutory right to two weeks’ unpaid paternity leave. Public sector collective agreements have provided financial compensation for such leave, but it has until now not been a right established in agreements at central level in the private sector. Norwegian fathers are already entitled to take paid leave of absence during the statutory parental leave period, and this paid paternity leave at birth will be in addition to that right.

Temporary work

The regulation of temporary agency work and of hiring employees was also an important issue on the bargaining agenda in the trend-setting industries. New provisions have been incorporated into the collective agreement. In future, temporary workers hired from an agency to perform the same kind of work as regular employees will be entitled to the same wage and working conditions. Pension entitlements are not included.

The collective agreement on temporary agency work between LO and NHO was terminated. Instead the social partners are obliged to make relevant industry agreements applicable, where called for, in temporary agencies. This means that each temporary agency could be covered by multiple collective wage agreements, depending on the quantity and type of labour they offer.

A special supplement has been attached to the new manufacturing industry agreement, which will come into force in cases where it has to apply to a temporary work agency.

Rules to help employee representatives to monitor whether temporary agency workers are being treated equally have been strengthened. They include the right to request documentation from the employer on the wage and working conditions of workers supplied by an agency.

The agreement’s provisions on equal treatment and the role of shop stewards are in line with those incorporated into the Working Environment Act. This act covers the working environment, working hours and employment protection, as part of the implementation of the EU directive on Temporary Agency Work (NO1205029I).

Although new rules are to be established in the legal framework, it is considered vital to employee organisations that such rules are also established in collective agreements.

Other issues

The social partners also agreed to continue efforts to resolve working time and compensation for working time issues, in cases where employees work continuous long shifts followed by long and continuous periods of time off work.

The social partners also agreed to consider changing the existing mechanism for making collective agreements generally binding, on the basis of the experience and knowledge acquired since the arrangement came into operation in 2004. They will also consider other measures where necessary, including the possible development of a system for industry-based collectively agreed minimum pay standards.

The social partners will jointly, as well as separately, work towards revision of the extension mechanism, the main objective of which is to protect foreign workers against substandard wages and working conditions.

Commentary

The 2012 bargaining round in the trend-setting industries involved several difficult topics, including the issue of how to regulate temporary agency work and labour hire in collective agreements. The decision to move away from a permanent collective agreement for the temporary agency industry was controversial for the employee side.

NHO Service, which organises temporary placement agencies, wanted to see a continuation of the existing agreement for the whole temporary placement industry, but failed to win acceptance for its view within the NHO Confederation.

The joint statement made about the need to review the present extension mechanism reflects the fact that both parties see challenges associated with the present regulatory framework (NO0808019I; NO1003019I; NO1202029I). An evaluation of the present scheme may thus provide important insight and input into the ongoing development of the Norwegian model of wage setting.

Similar joint statements have also been made in other agreement areas in the private sector, including building and construction, which is the industry with the most experience with the extension mechanism (NO0509103F).

Following the agreement in the trend-setting industries, agreements have also been concluded in several other areas in the private sector, including building and construction, wholesale and retail trade, the hotel and restaurant sector, industrial cleaning and most parts of the transport sector.

The provisions on paid paternity leave and temporary work have also been incorporated in these areas.

Kristine Nergaard, Fafo

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