Industrial relations in the public sector — Norway

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 10 december 2008



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Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

This report presents an overview of industrial relations in the central government and public sector in Norway.

1. Structure of the public sector in your country

Please provide:

The definition of the public sector commonly accepted and used in your country. What are the different sectors covered (e.g. central government, local government, health sector, education, others)?

There is no official definition of the public sector in Norway. The term is most often used to denote the central government sector (or state sector as it is referred to in Norway), including various regulatory agencies, as well as county municipal (regional authorities) - and municipal sectors (local authorities). It also includes deregulated enterprises such as the state hospital sector, which now are judicially and financially independent entities owned by the state.

The definition of the central government sector commonly accepted and used in your country. What are the different sectors covered?

The definition of central government (or state sector), as it is used in relation to collective bargaining, is that of all employees covered by the Act relating to civil servants (Lov om statens tjenestemenn). This is the main acting regulating employment relations in the central government sector. It includes employees in government ministries, regulatory authorities and directorates (e.g. national social insurance administration, directorate of taxes and the labour market administration). It also includes the armed forces, the police, and employees in universities- and advanced colleges.

The following data:

Table 1. Employment and population
Year Central government* Public sector** Total Employees (all economy) Total Population
Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women

2003

69814

54906

224038

532940

1198000

1071000

2256107

2296145

2004

70412

57927

226012

547468

1201000

1074000

2269049

2308408

2005

69068

58356

222656

554151

1211000

1078000

2284070

2322293

Source: Central government – Statens tjenestemannsregister (SST)

Public Sector, Total employees and total population – Statistics Norway (SSB)

*figures include armed forces and police; other non-ministerial employees, and teachers in university and advanced colleges.

**figures include hospital sector

Table 2. Central government employment***
Year Open-ended of which part-time Fixed-term of which part-time
Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women

2003

No figures

No figures

No figures

No figures

No figures

No figures

No figures

No figures

2004

No figures

No figures

No figures

No figures

No figures

No figures

No figures

No figures

2005

51037

34481

3277

12049

No figures

No figures

No figures

No figures

Source: Statens tjenestemannsregister (SST)

*** Figures include armed forces and police; other non-ministerial employees, and teachers in university and advanced colleges (not education institutions at the lower level).

Please clarify whether central government employment includes: a) school teachers; b) NHS employees; c) armed forces and police; other non-ministerial employees. If data include these groups of employees, please indicate their numbers (or estimated share).

Please indicate whether fixed-term employment and part-time work are typical of certain organisational areas in the central government sector (for instance, top job positions rather than lower-level occupations) or group of workers (such as employees approaching retirement, new recruits, women, technicians, and the like)

Some top jobs are fixed term, in particular top management jobs in directorates and regulatory bodies, but these are relatively few in numbers. New recruits are also often employed on fixed term contracts, in particular scientific positions in the university- and advanced college sector. The use of fixed term contracts in the public sector is lower (10 percent) than in the municipal sector as well as parts of the private service sector.

Please indicate the presence and quantitative relevance of non-standard employment relationships in the central government sector, and especially of temporary agency work and service contracts with individuals or other non-standard contractual relationships that are important in your country.

No information.

2. Employment regulation

Public sector vs. private sector.

Do (certain) public sector employees enjoy special status compared with private sector employees?

Do all public sector employees have the same status or are there differences between different groups of employees, as, for instance, between civil servants, clerical employees and workers?

If public sector employees enjoy special status(es), please specify:

The distinctive features of (each) public sector employment status, highlighting the main differences with the status of private sector employees (and, if relevant, among the various public sector statuses). In particular, indicate whether such differences involve the rights: i) of association; ii) to bargaining collectively; iii) to strike.

The requirements that must be fulfilled to gain (each) such special status(es): i) pass a public examination; ii) achieve a certain tenure in the position; c) in terms of nationality; d) other specific conditions.

The status of public sector employees is on the whole not much different from that of private sector employees. As a rule the ordinary regulations of working life applies to all workers regardless of sector. In relation to work environment and employment conditions, the Act relating to working environment, working hours and employment protection (Arbeidsmiljøloven, AML) is the most important piece of legislation in Norwegian working life. It is applicable to private sector, municipal sector, as well as to state sector employees. There are certain exeptions to this rule. State sector employees are exempted from acts provisions on temporary employment, job security, dismissals, and preferential treatment in relation to other types of work. In these areas, in addition to some special areas particular to the state sector such as redundancy/unemployment benefits (ventelønn), state sector employees are subject to the Act relating to civil servants (Lov om statens tjenestemenn). The rules in this area are seen as more beneficial to employees than in the ordinary legal framework, giving state sector employees a special status. The act also regulates the rights and duties of certain categories of senior civil servants – also called "embetsmenn". These groups enjoy much greater employment protection, and derive much of their status from the national constitution. They may not be dismissed through ordinary channels, but only by royal decree or through a court ruling.

All groups enjoy a right of association in Norwegian working life. This right is established the Act relating to human rights, which incorporates UN conventions as well as the human rights convention of the Council of European Council. In relation to basic workers rights such the as that of right to association, collective bargaining and strike, there are some differences between municipal and private sector employees, on the one hand, and state sector employees on the other. First of all, these rights are regulated through two different sets of legislation; the Act relating to public service disputes (Tjenestetvistloven) in the state sector and Act relating to labour disputes (Arbeidstivstloven) in the private and municipal sectors. The right to collective bargaining and strike is not established in the legal framework in the private and municipal sectors, but is nevertheless recognised as a right in legal practice and tradition. In the central government sector (state sector), on the other hand, such rights are established in the act relating to public service disputes. Some groups are exempted from these rights. Senior civil servants (embetsmenn) do not, according to legal practice, enjoy a right to strike, e.g. judges. The same is the case for personnel within the armed forces, both civilian and military.

Central government. Please indicate whether and how this special employment status regulation applies to central government employees.

See above 2.1

All central government employees are covered by the regulation (civil servants act), but only a minority have the status of senior civil servants (embetsmenn).

Please fill in the following table:

Table 3. Status of central government employees
Year Total employees Status A (please replace by the name of the status) Status B (please replace by the name of the status) Status C (please replace by the name of the status)
Men Women Men Women Men Women

2003

No info

No info

No info

No info

No info

No info

No info

2004

No info

No info

No info

No info

No info

No info

No info

2005

No info

No info

No info

No info

No info

No info

No info

N.B.: add further columns if required

Please indicate the elements of the employment relationship of central government employees which are regulated by:

Specific legislation.

Collective bargaining.

Pay is by and large regulated through collective bargaining in Norway, which is also the case in the central government sector. The legal framework merely provides procedures and rules for compensation for inconvenient working time and work organisation. The AML provides the framework for working time regulation, also in the central government sector. The extent of detailed working time regulation in the collective bargaining varies between sectors, agreements. In central government working time is often regulated in so-called special agreements (særavtaler), but which are subordinate to both the legal framework as well as basic wage agreements at the central level. The legal framework provide for a basic pension for all in Norwegian working life. In the central government sector employees are also subject to an agreement based occupational pension guaranteeing 66 percent pension. In addition it also provide for special retirement age for certain groups of employees, such as officers in the armed forces. Leave of absence entitlements, such as different types of parental leave, family care leave, are also seen to be both more comprehensive and better in the central government sector. The agreement expands on existing rules in the legal framework with regards to length of leave and wage compensation during leave of absence. In particular compensation during leave are seen to be beneficial, providing 100 percent compensation over much a longer period than is the case in the private sector.

With regards to the balance between legislation and agreement on the issue of employment protection and job security, it seems that the former regulation is the most important. Collective agreements do elaborate on these issues as well. The most important here are as mentioned above the use temporary employment, severance pay, and preferential treatment in relation to new employment. In the state sector these arrangements take the form of entitlement to other posts or positions in the state sector for employees made redundant, as well as compensation for loss of paid compensation whilst waiting to take up such employment.

In your answer, please refer specifically to elements such as recruitment procedures, pay (see also below), working time, work organisation, job security and employment protections, social security.

Please, briefly illustrate whether and how reform of employment regulation in the central government sector since the 1990s has affected:

The status of workers.

No major reforms with this effect

The balance between legislation and collective bargaining in regulating the various dimensions of the employment relationships.

No major reforms with this effect

Other relevant industrial relations dimensions, such as representation, conflict and its regulation.

Right to strike awarded the police in 1994.

Please, briefly illustrate whether and how reorganisation and restructuring in the central government sector since the 1990s, for instance through the establishment of special agencies or the separation of specific bodies and offices, has affected:

The status of significant groups of workers.

The balance between legislation and collective bargaining in regulating the various dimensions of the employment relationships.

Other relevant industrial relations dimensions, such as representation, conflict and its regulation.

The central government sector has been subject to continuous reorganisation and restructuring since the early 1990s. Major changes in employment status and legislation have come as a result of transfer of government activities from the state to the private, semi-private or municipal sector. The most obvious shift in status has come in relation to deregulation of public utilities. Whereas the status of such employees previously was regulated by the Act relating to civil servant, they are today regulated by the Act relating to Worker Protection and Working Environment (AML). For example in the fixed-network telephony sector the transformation of the previous state monopoly, Telenor, from a state agency to a private actor have changed the status of the workers from state officials to private sector employees. This is also the case with regards to other public utilities within the electricity sector and within public transport.

3. Pay levels and determination

Please indicate:

The presence and relevance of collective bargaining on pay in the central government sector.

Bargaining over pay takes place at the central level in the central government sector, although there is also company- or enterprise level bargaining over pay. It is up to the central parties to decide whether or not enterprise level or central bargaining is to be carried out, and how much of the funds set aside for bargaining to be allocated for enterprise level bargaining.

The number and scope of bargaining units on pay within the central government sector.

Pay is mainly determined at the central level thus leaving only one unit of bargaining (state sector). However, at the central level funds for local bargaining over pay is negotiated, and these funds are allocated to local level units for further negotiations between local level organisations. There are around 200 such local bargaining units in the state sector in Norway.

Do minimum wage levels vary across the different bargaining units within the central government sector? Are there common minimum wage levels in the whole public sector?

No, (see 3.4 below) the wage system in the state sector is based on the placement of positions at a certain level within a wage scale (thus the actual wage may vary according to specific criteria such a seniority etc). Accordingly different positions will have different minimum wage floors.

Is there a single job classification system for the whole central government sector?

The pay system in the central government sector is a single job classification system.

Wage levels and wage increases in the central government and private sectors since 2000 (table 4). If there are great variations across bargaining units within the central government sector, please briefly illustrate such variations

Table 4. Central government and private sector: wage levels and increases since 2000 (average)
Year Central government Private sector
Level € Annual increase % Level € Annual increase %

2000

No information

4.6

No information

4.6

2001

No information

4.2

No information

5.1

2001

No information

5.9

No information

5.6

2003

No information

4.3

No information

4

2004

No information

3.7

No information

3.8

2005

No information

3.4

No information

4

Source: NOU 2006:11 Technical Calculating Committee on Wage Settlements

The presence and relevance of variable performance-related pay in the central government sector. Please indicate whether variable pay is particularly relevant in certain bargaining units or organisational areas (for instance, top job positions, officers, or other occupations).

The basic wage agreement in the state sector opens up for variable performance-related pay, but there is no systematic information on the presence and relevance of such pay. It is assumed to be of little relevance in the state sector.

Are there any forms of “benchmarking” of wage dynamics in the central government sector with other public sectors or with the private sector? If yes, are industrial relations actors involved in such benchmarking activity?

Wage policy in Norwegian working life has for a long time been marked by the objective of maintaining wage growth at the level of Norway's trading partners, with a view to safeguarding high employment levels and a stable economy. Thus wage formation in Norway has taken place under the so-called ‘trend setting trades’ model, whereby the industries most vulnerable to international competition should set the agenda for wage setting elsewhere in the national economy, including the public sector.

4. Union Presence and density

Please provide information on:

Trade unions which are present in the various bargaining units of the central government sector, their number, affiliation, representational domain, membership, and the sectoral union density (data by gender). Please fill in the following table:

There are four Union Confederations in the state sector:

The Confederation of Vocational Unions (Yrkesorganisasjonenes Sentralforbund, YS) with 26 981 members, the Federation of Norwegian Professional Associations (Akademikerne) with 18174 members, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge, LO) with 41245 members, and UNIO (The Confederation of Unions for Professionals) with 26047 members.

Table 5. Trade unions
Union Affiliation Representa-tional domain (group of workers represented) Diffusion (4.2) Bargaining units where the trade union is present Total membership in the state sector

Fellesfor-bundet

LO

Engineering industry workers

General

No info.

1434

Norges Offisers-forbund

LO

Officers/Army

Professional

No info.

4432

Norsk Arbeidsmands-forbund

LO

Public construction sites

General

No info.

692

Felles-organisasjonen

LO

Administrative employees in social work, child care work and social education

Professional

No info.

1695

Forbundet for ledelse og teknikk

LO

Engineering and managerial positions in regulatory bodies

Professional/ general

No info.

754

Norsk Fengsels og friomsorgs-forbund

LO

Prison workers

General

No info.

2462

Norsk Tjeneste-mannslag

LO

Civil service employees

General

No info.

25841

Norsk Jernbane-forbund

LO

All types of employees within the railway sector

General

No info.

2413

Fagforbundet

LO

Administrative positions within hospitals

General

No info.

890

Befalets Felles-organisasjon

YS

Officers/ armed forces

Professional

No info.

5487

Personell-forbundet

YS

Sivilian workers in armed forces

General

No info.

2501

Parat

YS

Employees within labour administra-tion and social insurance

General

No info.

8814

Norsk Tollerforbund

YS

Custom workers

General

No info.

1534

Sosialtjeneste-mennenes Landsforbund

YS

Health care and prison service

General

No info.

2162

Statstjeneste-mannsforbundet

YS

State sector employees

General

No info.

2779

Trygdetilsattes Landsforbund

YS

Social insurance employees

General

No info.

2612

Politiets Fellesforbund

UNIO

Police

Professional

No info.

10047

Norsk Sykepleier-forbund

UNIO

Auxiliary nurses

Professional

No info.

1264

Utdannings-forbundet

UNIO

School sector/ administrative positions

Professional

No info.

2052

Forskerforbundet

UNIO

Researchers

Professional

No info.

10499

Den norske preste-forening

UNIO

Priests/Clerics

Professional

No info.

1450

Den norske lægeforening

Akademikerne

Administrative positions in regulatory bodies

Professional

No info.

828

Den Norske Veterinær-forening

Akademikerne

Administrative positions in regulatory bodies

Professional

No info.

626

Krigsskoleut-dannende Offiserers landsforening

Akademikerne

Officers/Armed forces

Professional

No info.

609

Samfunnsviternes Fagforening

Akademikerne

Social scientists/ researchers/ administrative positions

Professional

No info.

2709

Samfunnsøkonomenes Fagforening

Akademikerne

Economists

Professional

No info.

767

Norges Juristforbund

Akademikerne

Jurists

Professional

No info.

4990

Naturviterforbundet

Akademikerne

Natural scientists

Professional

No info.

1016

Norsk Psykolog-forening

Akademikerne

Psychologists/ administrative positions/ regulatory bodies

Professional

No info.

512

Tekna

Akademikerne

Chartered engineers

Professional

No info.

4756

Sivileøkonomene

Akademikerne

Economists

Professional

No info.

949

Other LO

LO

     

632

Other YS

YS

     

1092

Other Unio

Unio

     

735

Other Akademikerne

Akademikerne

     

38

NITO

Independent

Engineers

Professional

No info.

4329

Other Independent

Independent

     

124

Total

-

-

 

-

116526

Sectoral union density

-

-

 

-

83 percent

N.B.: add further rows if required

Please provide information on the diffusion within the central government sector of craft unions, professional unions, or unions which are not affiliated to peak associations.

See new entry column in table 5 above

Are there any formal procedures or rules, which aim to assess the representativeness of the various unions? If yes, please, briefly illustrate the content of such procedures or rules. Do these procedures or rules affect the access of the various unions to trade union prerogatives or to the bargaining table? If yes, please specify such effects and any possible limitations.

There are restrictions with regards to the type unions that may conclude a collective agreement, and as such participate in bargaining, in the central government sector in Norway (state sector). The legal framework, in the form of the Act relating to public service disputes (tjenestetvistloven), establish three types of associations/organisations that may conclude collective agreements, and all three associations must satisfy certain (and different in scope) criteria with regards to membership and representativeness. In short these criteria implies that the unions must represent a certain number of employees within a central government unit (20 000 for civil service unions and 40 000 for main confederations), or be representative of certain groups/occupations within central government (at least 50 percent). Organisations that do not meet these criteria are not entitled to conclude an agreement.

5. Employer representation

Please provide information on:

Who does represent the central government at the bargaining table? Are there specific independent bodies, such as agencies, or negotiations are carried out under the responsibility of political actors, such as ministers?

The Ministry of Government Administration and Reform (Fornyings- og administrasjonsdepartementet, FAD) represents the central government at the bargaining in Norway. Negotiations are led by the Personnel Director of Central Government (Personaldirektøren i Staten). The personnel director is an administrative position, and not political, but the director takes his directions from the Minister of FAD. Hence, ultimately employer responsibility rests with the government.

If negotiations are carried out by specific independent bodies, please indicate how they are organised. In particular, specify whether there are guidelines or other directives set by political actors and how the tasks of the independent bodies are carried out. For instance, negotiations have to follow specific stages?

See 5.1

If negotiations are carried under the direct responsibility of political actors, please indicate how they are organised. For instance, do negotiations take place under the responsibility of a single ministry, for instance the Finance Ministry, or are they carried out by a delegation or in a different way?

See 5.1

Do collective agreements in the central government sector have to pass an ex-post “validation” procedure, for instance to certify their compliance with budget constraints? If present, please briefly illustrate such procedure and the consequences of failure to pass it.

Bargaining results and the basic collective agreement in the government sector must be approved by parliament (Stortinget). Special state sector agreements do not have to be subject to political approval.

6. Collective bargaining and conflict in central government

Please provide information on:

The structure of collective bargaining and, in particular, the number and scope of bargaining units, both at central (national) and decentralised (workplace and territorial) levels.

Bargaining in the central government sector takes place mainly at the central level, i.e. bargaining for all groups within the central government sector. The central basic wage agreement is negotiated between FAD, on the one side, and the main employee confederations on the other (LO,YS, UNIO and Akademikerne). Negotiation over pay also takes place at the workplace level. There are around 200 local level bargaining units in the state sector. Bargaining over so-called special agreements (særavtaler) takes place both at the intermediate level, as well as at the local level. These agreements are of particular relevance to the areas in which they are negotiated.

The duration of agreements and the presence and content of peace obligations.

It follows very much the same patterns as in the rest of the national economy. The basic wage agreement in the central government sector is a biannual agreement, but it involves renegotiation over pay in the intermediate year. An obligation to keep the peace during the duration of a collective agreement is established in the legal framework (in the public disputes act). The duty to keep the peace is also made applicable, during the course of the basic wage agreement, to so-called special agreements.

The main issues of collective bargaining by referring to the latest renewals.

In the 2006 Bargaining round pay and the level at which pay ought to be distributed was on the agenda in the central government sector (state sector) (no0606029i). The four confederations LO, YS, UNIO and Akademikerne all called on the national authorities to raise the wages of their members substantially vis-à-vis the traditional manufacturing industry. Moreover, Akademikerne has long called for changes to the state sector bargaining system, seeking to move away from centralised wage formation towards more enterprise-level wage determination. When YS, LO and UNIO managed to reach agreement with the employer side, it made it harder for the fourth – Akademikerne – to achieve its demand for decentralisation. The state as employer, as well as the other three confederations, wants to retain a relatively uniform system of bargaining for all employees; in this regard, it would be difficult for the state to accept the demands of Akademikerne, even in modified form, having already reached agreement with the other three confederations on maintenance of the existing system. The employee side is split on this issue; therefore, a certain degree of conflict will continue in this sector in the years to come.

Levels and recent trends in conflict.

Number of workers on strike.
. 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Central government sector 0 0 0 0 0

Source: Statistics Norway (Statistisk Sentralbyrå, SSB) – Statbank

The presence and main features of forms of regulation of labour conflict and collective dispute resolution procedures. Please indicate whether such rules are specific to the central government sector, or apply to the whole public sector, or are general and cover both public and private sectors.

Generally speaking the regulation of conflict and dispute resolution is the same for all sectors of the Norwegian economy. In Norwegian labour law a distinction is drawn between disputes over rights (i.e. disputes regarding the content/interpretation of agreements) and disputes over interest (i.e. disputes regarding the conclusion/revision of a collective agreement). The former being under the jurisdiction of the Labour Court, and the latter of the Office of the State Mediator. There is also a body for voluntary arbitration, the National Wage Board. There are some procedural differences in the legal frameworks of the state sector and private/municipal sectors with regards to mediation. Mediation is always compulsory in the state sector, while in the private sector the mediator may choose not to intervene (although this seldom happens). The period during which industrial action is prohibited awaiting the mediator’s response to a decision to resort to industrial action is longer in the state sector than in the other sectors. Arbitration is always compulsory for all senior civil servants as well as military personnel, and hence they will not be allowed to resort to strike action. Ordinary civil servants and central government employees may take strike action. So far all strikes in the central government sector have been stopped by compulsory arbitration.

7. Commentary by the NC

Please:

Specify the main issues on the agenda of industrial relations in the central government sector in your country.

See 6.3

Cover any further issues which are relevant in your country but have not been covered by previous questions.

No further issues.

Provide your own comments on industrial relations in the central government sector in your country.

Industrial relations in the central government sector is on the whole subject to the same rules and regulations as in the rest of the national economy. There are, as we have seen above, some differences both in relation to collective as well as individual rights of workers, both between sectors as well as within the central government sector itself.

Håvard Lismoen, FAFO Institute for Applied Social Science

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