Unions agree to forego wage hikes

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This year’s first phase of annual wage negotiations between Norwegian trade union federations and employer organizations ended with an historically low settlement for key players on Friday. Only the lowest paid workers will get any raise at all.

Union leader Gerd Kristiansen (right) and Kristin Skogen Lund, head of the employers' organization NHO, after agreeing to an historically low wage pact on Friday. PHOTO: LO

Union leader Gerd Kristiansen (right) and Kristin Skogen Lund, head of the employers’ organization NHO, after agreeing to an historically low wage pact on Friday. PHOTO: LO

The largest industrial labour organizations that front the annual wage talks accepted that they won’t get any nationally agreed pay raise. Their pay will only increase if their local employers have the ability and the desire to give them raises.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported that the zero percent national settlement means that most Norwegians represented by collective bargaining agreements will preserve their purchasing power, largely because of low interest and inflation rates, but hardly anything more. The lowest-paid workers, however, will get raises equal to around 2.7 percent.

“This is a settlement of solidarity, in which we’ve put priority on equal pay and those with low pay,” said Gerd Kristiansen, leader of Norway’s largest trade union federation LO. “That’s important for us, and in line with the policy of LO’s representatives.”

LO reported that the average salary for an industrial worker in Norway is now NOK 431,126 (around USD 54,000) a year, and that would be maintained. Those earning less than NOK 388,013, around half of whom are women, will qualify for raises.

Kristiansen and other labour leaders had already warned their union members that they couldn’t expect any lucrative pay hikes this year. The sharp decline in oil prices has already led to cutbacks in Norway’s important oil sector, which in turn has ripple effects in other industries. Kristiansen defended the settlement, claiming that it “saved lots of jobs.”

Employers hailed the union leaders as being sensible at a time of economic slowdown in Norway. The tone was said to be good between the two sides, who also reached their agreement before the deadline.

It also means there’s unlikely to be any major strikes this spring, barring  negotiations in other sectors that begin after the Easter holidays. The industrial settlement usually sets the tone for all other negotiations.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund