New law could see flight to public sector

The private sector in Norway has begun to react to a new law in Norway aimed at making public-sector salary information available to all.

New law could see flight to public sector
Anne-Kari Bratten of employer association Spekter: "The public sector is in many ways a monopoly"

It is understood the business sector’s age-old battles to staff their companies could suffer a major reverse if Norway’s individual public-sector wages become public knowledge. Those employed or hired by government have seen exponential growth for their salaries since the first wage booms of the 1980s, and Norwegian civil servants among the best-paid in Europe.

The average Norwegian public-sector salary for men in 2010 was 40,300 ($7,000) kroner per month compared with 36,900 in industry and 45,800 in the information and communications technology sector. Job security in the public sector is ranked No. 1 in Norway.

The state’s fully owned and part-owned companies are largely the country’s best salary payers, and a flight of talent from the traditional private sector is feared. According to Norwegian information-technology newspaper Digi, the salaries of some 800,000 Norwegian workers — or about half the country’s workforce — will be available for access-to-information requests when a new law is voted into the records in the coming months.

“It will shock people,” said Anne-Kari Bratten, deputy administrative director of the employer association Spekter.

She doesn’t agree with Norwegian politicians who warn the new transparency law will harm recruitment, although she appeared to mean public-sector recruitment.

“The public sector is in many ways a monopoly,” said Bratten.

The government’s renewal minister, Labour’s Rigmor Assrud, said transparency goals on government spending would be made clearer with access to public-sector salary information. How access would work in practice has not been worked out, Assrud said.

It was Norway’s information authority, the Datatilsynet, which recommended to the Directorate of Management and Internet & Communications Technology that pay slips be classed as public information.

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Satellite surveillance should replace tolls on Norway’s roads: council

GPS surveillance is a fairer method for charging motorists for their use of Norway’s roads than toll booths, says the Norwegian Road Traffic Advisory Council.

Satellite surveillance should replace tolls on Norway’s roads: council
File photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

The Road Traffic Advisory Council (Opplysningsrådet for veitrafikken, OFV), an umbrella interest organisation for road constructors, the motor industry and insurance and oil companies, says that GPS monitoring of traffic is the method of the future when it comes to charging motorists fairly.

“We wish to replace today’s toll booths with a system in which motorists pay based on where and when they drive and the emissions of their cars,” the Council’s head Karin Yrvin told broadcaster NRK.

But Director Atle Årnes of the Norwegian Data Protection Authority (Datatilsynet) told the broadcaster he was sceptical over the idea.

“This type of dynamic road pricing will register even more information about us. Since it would be a continual registration of where we go, this is very significant with regard to personal privacy,” Årnes said.

Årnes added that GPS monitoring of all drivers could, nevertheless, be acceptable under certain conditions.

“A possible solution is that personal information is stored in individual cars, rather than centrally, and that only information necessary for billing is forwarded by the car,” he said.

Toll booths and stations already established in Norway present an existing personal privacy issue, Årnes continued.

“The toll stations send information for central registration every time they are passed,” he told NRK.

“Road pricing with localised GPS monitoring could actually be better for privacy,” he said.

Traffic Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen said earlier this year that the government was sceptical on dynamic road tolling, with surveillance concerns part of its considerations.

Yrvin told NRK that the privacy argument should be considered relative to the benefits of a fair tolling system.

“This way, society can fully implement the principle that polluters pay for their emissions,” she said.

Technology to implement the system already exists, Yrvin added.

Årnes said that, for many Norwegians, surveillance through internet and mobile phones had now become accepted to some degree.

“Cars are on their way to becoming ‘the new mobiles’, and you have less control over a car than something in your pocket. Mobiles can be turned off, or you can ask for sensors to be turned off. That is not so easy for a car,” he told NRK.

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