Offshore oil workers' union affiliates to the Confederation of Vocational Unions

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The previously independent employee organisation, The Federation of Offshore Workers Trade Unions (OFS), has decided to affiliate to The Confederation of Vocational Unions (YS) from March 1997.

Oljearbeidernes Fellessammenslutning (Federation of Offshore Workers' Trade Unions, OFS) has decided to affiliate to Yrkesorganisasjonenes Sentralforbund (Confederation of Vocational Unions, YS), with effect from March 1997. OFS organises employees in the North Sea and has approximately 4,500 members. Increasingly few employee organisations are not affiliated to one of three major confederations in Norway; OFS was one of them until recently. The decision to affiliate to YS came after a ballot in OFS, where the great majority of participants voted for an affiliation. to YS. OFS will remain a federation within YS, which is a confederation with approximately 200,000 members. A direct consequence of the affiliation is that YS will be party to OFS's agreements with the Norwegian Oil Industry Association/Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (OLF/NHO), and that the Basic Agreement between YS and NHO will be made applicable to OFS. Since mid-term renegotiations take place at the confederate level - ie, between YS and NHO - YS-affiliated federations will have to renegotiate relevant wage agreements at this level.

The history of OFS goes back to the end of the 1970s when several small independent employee organisations within the petroleum sector started to work together. The petroleum sector is one of the areas of the private sector where trade union rivalry has been the fiercest, and where OFS competes with, amongst others, NOPEF, an LO-affiliated federation. OFS and its employers' counterpart, OLF, have on a number of occasions not been able to reach agreement, and many bargaining rounds have ended in strikes. The Government has then generally intervened with compulsory arbitration and OFS has had to accept agreements which are not significantly different from those in the LO/NHO bargaining area.

So far, OFS has not been able to negotiate wage agreements for the oil-related industry onshore, and during the summer of 1996 it lost a strike over the right to reach agreements for the onshore oil sector. Within the petroleum sector, growth in employment is expected particularly amongst groups which are not covered by OFS agreements. In addition, new technology has meant that fewer workers are employed offshore. OFS's affiliation to YS can make it easier for the federation to recruit new members which until now have fallen outside the union's scope. OFS has also experienced internal conflicts and several of its affiliated trade unions are considering leaving the federation. The affiliation to YS may also be interpreted as a step in a more "responsible" direction.

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