Statoil workers yell at the boss

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It was an online opportunity to communicate with the boss, and Statoil employees reportedly quickly made use of it when the company’s chief executive Helge Lund launched an internal company blog. It didn’t take long before he was bombarded by frustrated staffers.

Helge Lund may be enjoying strong results from Statoil's business, but likely has discovered he's not very popular with longtime employees who claim he's cutting their pensions. PHOTO: Statoil

“Mr Helge Lund. You are out of touch! … As Donald Trump would say back home (apparently in the US): Helge! YOU ARE FIRED!”

That was just one of the staff responses, in a mix of Norwegian and English, to Lund’s attempt to blog with his employees, reported newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) this week. If Lund didn’t realize already that his workers haven’t taken kindly to the company’s decision, for example, to cut pensions while top executives kept their own lucrative agreements, he probably does now.

“I think the company’s desire to cut our pensions is shameful,” wrote one employee, and that was among the milder entries DN published from the blog.

“I am SHAKEN OVER STATOIL AND HELGE LUND,” wrote another.

“I feel bad about being a part of Statoil,” wrote still another, while one employee went into more vehement detail:

“Statoil is doing so well and steadily breaks new records. There are many of us who have worked here for years for these results and here’s the thanks we get: HL (Helge Lund) takes away our pensions!! Can that really be?? They sit themselves with fat paychekcs and even better pensions/golden parachutes and should go forward as a good example.”

“No one does this sort of thing,” wrote yet another. “Agreements in relationships and at work should be held. Always. That’s the only way we can rely on those of you who lead us.”

And then things got worse. The blog in which Lund himself, for example, posted a message about Statoil’s strong quarterly results with billions in profits and asked for comments, attracted such angry feedback that it suddenly, allegedly disappeared. When it reappeared, the critical comments appeared to be gone, according to several employees that DN spoke with.

That prompted criticism from a union leader at Statoil, Per Steinar Stamnes of Industri Energi Statoil Sokkel. “The way the leadership in Statoil meets criticism doesn’t build confidence,” Stamnes told DN.

A Statoil spokesman denies the blog was intentionally shut down and that the angry content has been trashed. “There hasn’t been any change, no trashing, no removal,” spokesman Bård Glad Pedersen told DN. He claims the most recent links still show automatically on Statoil’s intranet, but override earlier links. “Nothing is gone, everything’s there,” he said.

Stamnes doesn’t understand that. “There was after a while, so much negative feedback that the blog was removed,” he told DN. “On the evening of May 16, it was put out again via a new link, but now you have to first confirm that you’ll follow Statoil’s rules  before you read the posts. The old comments are gone. But several people have begun posing questions about the pension issue again.”

Statoil wouldn’t initially comment on the pension criticism to DN but later confirmed the company had decided to offer early retirement packages to its workers in the field. “We think we now can offer an attractive total package,” personnel director Magne Hovden told DN. Company officials denied they were caving in to the pressure from employees.

Pedersen claimed that “we do value open and constructive feedback.” Meanwhile, talks broke off between oil companies and unions representing oil field workers, meaning that a strike loomed if mediation was unsuccessful.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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