Working in Norway For Members

EXPLAINED: What is a Norwegian collective bargaining agreement? 

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected] • 24 May, 2022 Updated Tue 24 May 2022 11:14 CEST
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This is what foreign workers in Norway need to know about trade unions in Norway. Pictured is a bridge that leads to the barcode district of Oslo. Photo by Gunnar Ridderström on Unsplash

Workers in Norway will undoubtedly have heard about collective bargaining agreements, especially if they are unionised. But what is meant by the term, and how do they work? 

A good work-life balance, high wages, and generous vacation time are some of the many benefits that lure foreign workers to Norway. 

However, a lot of these rights aren't protected by Norwegian laws. Instead, worker's regulations are a mixture of agreements between the country's trade unions and employers, and government legislature. 

Working life in the country can best be summarised as a system of tripartite cooperation where employers, employee organisations and the government work together on matters regarding employment in the country. This is also referred to as the 'Norwegian Model'.

"Norway is a pretty unionised country, and the regulations surrounding working life in Norway are mainly based on a mixture of laws and collective agreements," Jan Olav Andersen, union leader for the Electricity and IT Association (ELogIT Forbundet), explained to The Local.

READ MORE: What foreign residents in Norway should know about workers’ unions

To decide on the rules and regulations that will govern working life, trade unions negotiate with employers' organisations every few years to develop collective bargaining agreements which determine everything from wages to parental leave. In Norwegian, these are called tariffavtale.

Collective bargaining agreements are negotiated throughout the spring, and negotiations for some of the most prominent sectors will regularly make the domestic headlines. Before the negotiations, unions will typically announce what they expect from the talks. This year, employee organisations have said that solid salary growth is expected, due to a high cost of living, inflation and low wage rises throughout the last few years. 

The agreement itself is a contract which regulates employment conditions, for example, stipulating that all employees with a particular job title must receive a salary within a specific pay band, as well as holiday allowance, overtime pay, working hours, and other benefits.

The breakdown of these negotiations leads to strikes and lock outs. Industrial action is a legal part of the Norwegian working model, provided they are announced and not unsanctioned. 

As a result of the strength of the collective bargaining agreements, more than two million people are part of unions. However, some unions have much higher membership rates than others. For example, the service industry has a much lower union membership than the municipal sector, which is heavily unionised. 

Workers in unions do not need to negotiate over salaries, and if a worker is in a union, their contract will be regulated by a collective bargaining agreement. Unions cover both the public and private sectors in Norway. 

"We negotiate collectively at both a national and a company level. If you are not a member of a union, then you will have to act on your own, as we used to say, 'alone we beg, together we negotiate'," Andersen said.  

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Frazer Norwell 2022/05/24 11:14

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