Salary levels now seem set to rise

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Public sector workers scored the biggest pay raises in Norway last year, boosting expectations in the private sector as Norway’s highly organized annual labour negotiations get underway. A new survey of actual salary levels in a wide range of sectors and professions, meanwhile, indicates that oil sector bosses earn the most in Norway, and farmhands the least.

Jørn Eggum, leader of the large trade union federation Fellesforbundet, will launch the first round of wage and benefit negotiations with industrial employers’ organization Norsk Industri. Eggum claimed on Tuesday that he’s “ready to fight for better purchasing power” for the federation’s members. PHOTO: Fellesforbundet/John Trygve Tollefsen

National labour and employer organizations are gearing up for this year’s so-called hovedoppgjør, the negotiations in most all labour sectors that involve both wage levels and benefits. After several years of moderation, labour unions and their members want to see some “real” wage growth that would exceed the inflation rate.

Fresh statistics released this week show that wage growth in the state, municipal and health care sectors has been much higher than in Norway’s industrial sector. The statistics were compiled by the state commission TBU (Teknisk beregningsutvalg) and form the basis for the country’s annual labour negotiations in late winter and early spring.

State-employed workers fared the best, according to TBU, with average wage growth of 3.8 percent. Those working in public sector jobs at the kommunal (municipal) level received average pay raises of 3.5 percent, while health care workers got 3.4 percent. The raises exceeded the inflation rate set by state statistics bureau SSB at 1.5 percent, although that’s lower than the roughly 2- to 2.5 percent inflation rate predicted by other economic experts.

Eggum will be up against Stein Lier-Hansen, who represents industrial employers fighting for raises of no more than 3 percent. PHOTO: Norsk Industri/Tone Buene

Industrial workers in the private sector, meanwhile, saw their wages rise by 3.1 percent, much lower than what state workers received. “That’s alarming,” claims Jørn Eggum, leader of the large trade union federation Fellesforbundet and thus one of the most powerful players in the annual negotiations. He’ll be pushing for pay growth at least as high as that logged by state workers last year, along with enhanced benefits including more work-paid training and continuing education, more equal pay between men and women, and some improved welfare leave.

Eggum’s counterpart at employers’ organization Norsk Industri, Stein Lier-Hansen, was also critical of the relatively high state raises. He told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Tuesday that state and municipal wage pacts “exploded,” and “that can sour” the upcoming negotiations in the private sector. That’s where his agreement with Eggum ends, though. Lier-Hansen will be arguing for an “extremely modest” wage settlement of under 3 percent.

Other rounds of negotiations between various other sectors will also pit “real” wage growth against “moderate” growth that barely keeps up with inflation. Results of the industrial sector talks between Fellesforbundet and Norsk Industri, though, are widely viewed as setting the framework for wage growth in Norway.

SSB lists actual average pay in Norway
Another new extensive survey from SSB, meanwhile, lists average actual salaries in a total of 356 different sorts of jobs. SSB reports that average monthly pay across all sectors rose from NOK 45,610 in September 2018 to NOK 47,290 in September 2019 (USD 5,140 at current exchange rates). That’s up 3.7 percent, the same as what state workers received.

Managers in the oil and gas production sector earned the most, with average monthly pay of NOK 112,040 (USD 12,178, or just over USD 146,000 a year). They were followed by shipbrokers at NOK 111,190 per month, financiers at NOK 99,630 and (reflecting the relatively high state pay settlements last year) leaders of public administrative agencies who earned NOK 97,940 per month on average last year.

The SSB survey features average salaries over a wide range of more than 300 other work groups, excluding overtime pay. Pilots, for example, who’ve gone out on strike against both SAS and Norwegian Air in recent years, had average monthly pay of NOK 90,190 while flight attendants earned NOK 37,360 on average. Judges earned NOK 81,290 and lawyers NOK 68,830 on average, even though DN reported recently that partners in large Norwegian law firms received huge raises and bonuses last year, with some earning as much as NOK 5,000 per hour.

Doctors, many of whom are public sector employees in Norway, earned an average NOK 70,410 as general practitioners, while dentists earned NOK 64,900 and nurses earned NOK 46,810. Police officers earned NOK 51,530, firefighters NOK 50,360, elementary school teachers NOK 46,220, electricians NOK 41,870 and plumbers NOK 41,110. Those earning the least included cleaning personnel (around NOK 30,000) and farm workers tending animals (NOK 26,230).

For the full earnings overviews compiled by SSB, click here (external link to SSB’s website).

Norwegian pay levels are otherwise widely set through the negotiations about to begin between the large labour- and employers’ organizations, whose union members and member companies respectively go along with the tariff avtaler (settlements) worked out. It’s a far more comprehensive and less personal system than those involving individual labour unions and specific companies in other countries. When settlements are reached by the branch organizations, they’re respected by all member companies, whose employees all receive the raises and benefits agreed whether or not they’re members of the labour unions involved.

“The Norwegian wage system is a success,” wrote commentator Kjell Werner for news organization ANB on Tuesday, “assuming there are high levels of organized employees and employers. Negotiations end as a compromise, with everyone viewed as being collectively sensible. Employees and employers know that they’re really in the same boat.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund