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Unions want more influence at G20

Norway’s largest trade union federations have joined their counterparts in the four other Nordic countries in issuing a joint call for Nordic representation at G20 meetings. That’s where finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s 19 largest economies plus the EU meet for talks, and the Nordic unions want their nations to have some influence.

Gerd Kristiansen, leader of Norway's largest trade union federation LO, is also leading a call for more Nordic influence with the G20 group of nations. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet
Gerd Kristiansen, leader of Norway’s largest trade union federation LO, is also leading a call for more Nordic influence with the G20 group of nations. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

“The G20 cooperation has become much broader than it was,” Gerd Kristiansen, leader of Norway’s largest labour organizatino LO, told newspaper Dagsavisen. “During the meeting in China this week, they were discussing employment. I think the Nordic countries would have had quite a bit to contribute, given how we choose to solve employment issues.”

That involves the so-called “Nordic model,” which in turn involves industry-wide negotiations between employer- and labour organizations, and close cooperation with the state. The professional and political cooperation in each of the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland) has often been credited with the overall success of their social welfare states and relatively stable economies.

Kristiansen, along with the leaders of Unio Norge and YS Norge and 12 other Nordic labour organizations, are sending a joint demand that their Nordic governments and the Nordic Council immediate apply for representation at the G20. Together, the unions’ cooperative organization NFS (Nordisk Faglig Samorganisasjon) in turn represents around 9 million organized workers in the five Nordic countries.

Collectively 12th-largest
Despite relatively small populations totalling just 26 million people, the Nordic region collectively ranks as the world’s 12th-largest economy. “In addition to a strong tradition of involvement and influence in international organizations, where we’re viewed as a region that thinks alike … we also have a strong joint cooperation through the Nordic ministerial council (Nordisk Råd),” the group wrote in their joint appeal published in Dagsavisen and other Nordic newspapers this week.

While Finland, Denmark and Sweden arguably have some representation at the G20 through their membership in the EU, the labour leader want a bigger say at G20 meetings, instead of “simply being a member of the audience and without important influence.”

Dagfinn Høybråten, a former top politician for the Christian Democrats in Norway who now leads the Nordic Council, supports the call for a voice at the G20. “This has been on our agenda,” Høybråten told Dagsavisen. “We want to increase our involvement with the G20.”

Nordics ‘deserve to be heard’
Petter Stordalen, best known as a Norwegian hotel tycoon who’s on the other side of the table in labour negotiations, also supports the unions’ call. He’s launched an effort to create a new “Nordic Union” himself, or “superstate,” as he calls it.

“I think (a voice at the G20) is sensible,” Stordalen, who owns hotels and has business interests throughout the region, told Dagsavisen. “Together, Norden (the Nordics) forms a considerable economy and deserves to be heard. But we need to be better at working together across borders, so that we can make ourselves more interesting in foreign eyes and strengthen Norden’s position internationally. Alone we’re small, but together we’re big.”

Elsbeth Sande Tronstad, a state secretary for the Conservative Party at the foreign ministry, was also positive towards the possibility of tighter Nordic cooperatin with the G20. “It’s also important, though, to take a realistic approach to how much influence we can get,” Tronstad said. Berglund



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