EXPLAINED: Why should I join a Norwegian trade union?
For those entering the Norwegian labour market for the first time, it is important to consider joining a union. There are several things to take into account before deciding which provider is right for you.
The primary purpose of Norway’s trade unions (fagforeninger) is to support members’ working rights and the terms and conditions of their employment. Unions play a key role in negotiating salary and other conditions with employers, and settling disputes.
Unions are generally organized within professional areas or sectors, for example Skolenes landsforbund (Norwegian Union of School Employees) or Handel og Kontor i Norge (The Norwegian Union of Commerce and Office Employees, HK).
You can contact the union that is relevant to your professional area to find out about the salary and working conditions you can expect to receive in Norway.
Individual trade unions are generally further linked to larger, usually national, umbrella organizations or confederations for professional groups. Using the above examples, both the Norwegian Union of School Employees and The Norwegian Union of Commerce and Office Employees are part of LO or Landsorganisasjonen i Norge (LO Norway).
With over 900,000 members in 24 trade unions, LO is Norway's biggest organization for employees, but there are three others. These include Unio (The Confederation of Unions for Professionals), which counts nursing, police and other types of academic and healthcare professions amongst its affiliates; and the Confederation of Vocational Unions (Yrkesorganisasjonenes Sentralforbund, YS), which has 19 affiliated unions encompassing several sectors. Examples include unions for librarians, tax agency workers and dairy workers.
The final confederation is Akademikerne, which consists of 13 different unions and has a total membership of just under 200,000. Members of these are primarily business professionals with a master's degree or equivalent education al background.
The central organisations can refer you to the affiliated union that is connected to your professional group or field. Their websites are linked below.
- The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO)
- The Confederation of Unions for Professionals (Unio)
- The Confederation of Vocational Unions (YS)
- The Federation of Norwegian Professional Associations (Akademikerne)
So what can a trade union do for me?
It is common in Norway for employees, including white-collar employees and management, to join a union. In 2018, 1,857,787 working people in the country were union members and close to 52 percent of all people in employment were union members in 2013. Although that is the lowest proportion amongst the Nordic countries, it is still much higher than the OECD value of 17 percent.
Unions can offer a variety of services and support to their members, such as reviewing employment contracts and other legal support, providing discounts on insurances and other products, and offering networking opportunities. Unions are generally focused around a specific profession or trade. Unions can help their members in the event of disputes between the member and their employer.
Many of the unions have websites with a section in English, which give a description of the types of professions that they cover. If you are still unsure of which to pick, you can always ask your co-workers for advice, especially those that are in the same profession or trade.
Tax deduction for trade union fees
If you are in employment, you can request a tax deduction on membership fees you have paid to a trade union.
Although this might be automatically included on your tax return, it is worth checking that this is the case.
You can find out how much you are entitled to in tax deductions via the Norwegian Tax Administration (Skatteetaten) website.
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