Unions are concerned about the number of public contracts going to cheaper foreign workers, arguing apprentice schemes for Norwegians are being undermined. They warned a lack of focus on vocational training would lead to a skills shortage among Norwegians.
“It’s like a football team which gets in foreign players, in favour of using their own talents,” plumber Joakim Gebhardt told newspaper Dagsavisen. “In the short term it can certainly be smart, but in the long run no good comes of it, because they do not devote resources to developing their own talents.”
The plumbers union pointed to a publicly funded renovation of Grefsen school in Oslo, managed by the city council’s education building branch (Undervisningsbygg). When the plumbing subcontractor on the project went bankrupt, the positions were filled by foreign contractors. There were no apprentices on site.
“None of them have Norwegian craft certificates and do not meet the requirements of a training company,” the union wrote to Undervisningsbygg. “This is generally a large problem which in our belief is helping undermine the intention of the apprenticeship clause in the Oslo municipality.” The union argued there was a responsibility to award public projects to companies focusing on training and apprenticeships.
The Undervisningsbygg communications director Marit Thorsen said the principal contractor on the Grefsen project, AF, is a firm with apprentices across many trades. She said the apprenticeship clause looks at the apprentices a company has as a whole, as opposed to being project-specific.
“Legally we can set requirements for apprentices in the contracts, but the procurement rules have other basic provisions, which among other things prevents discrimination between contractors,” Thorsen said. She stressed that Oslo is now introducing stricter control to make sure the apprenticeship requirements are followed, with the possibility of sanctions for companies that don’t comply.