Never before has Norway’s state-controlled oil and energy company Equinor logged more profits, and it’s passing a sizeable chunk of them on to employees. Top executives aren’t the only ones getting big bonuses, some just in time for Christmas.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) has reported that all the roughly 20,000 employees of Norway’s largest company will receive an extra USD 1,000 this month (NOK 10,000 at current exchange rates) for doing “an extra good job” in 2022. That comes in addition to a bonus for around 16,800 employees that was equivalent to 10.5 percent of their salaries, plus negotiated pay raises in Norway earlier this year of 4.9 percent.
The company’s record profits are largely a result of high gas and oil prices pumped up by Russia’s war on Ukraine, which also has left Norway with a record trade surplus. Equinor and other Norwegian oil and gas companies have been scrambling to boost production to offset the loss of Russian oil and gas to the European market, and earning lots of money in return.
Justified by a ‘heavier work load’
Equinor officials stress that many employees have had a heavier work load this year because of the unstable energy situation in Europe, high demand for Equinor products and the need to improve security around offshore installations and mainland plants. The company’s financial strength, meanwhile, has further increased as well.
It’s all resulted, reports DN, in Equinor employees with “average” pay receiving around NOK 130,000 extra in 2022, many much more. The leader of one of Norway’s major teachers’ unions, meanwhile, notes that the generous bonuses and pay hikes fuel economic differences between oil industry workers and many others.
“The pay growth we’re seeing in Equinor is sky-high over what even LO (Norway’s largest labour confederaton) and NHO (the national employers’ association) think should be the standard (3.7 percent total),” Steffen Handal of Utdanningsforbundet told DN, adding that it raises questions about the so-called need for “moderation” in pay raises for most all other workers. He led a major strike by teachers this year that did not result in the raises demanded, while nurses protesting their own low wages and difficult working conditions during the pandemic were also ordered back to work and some reduced to tears.
Union leaders at Equinor, meanwhile, are reported to be “extremely satisfied” with their members’ raises and bonuses. Bjørn Asle Teige of the union SAFE called the higher compensation “well-deserved after a long period with the pandemic and uncertainty around Ukraine.” He also mentioned all the unidentified drone observations around offshore oil and gas installations and processing plants on the mainland that have worried many workers.
Most all other companies and their employees have also been through similar trauma during the past three years, DN noted. Asked whether Equinor’s compensation levels can provoke others, Teige said they might but noted that “we don’t have our ordinary Christmas parties any longer.”