Lots of nuts to crack to avoid major strikes in April
Danger of strikes is considered to be large when the year’s wage negotiations start on Monday. Negoitiated Pension Plans (AFP) and rules against mailbox companies must be landed in order to prevent major strikes as of April 8.
At 1 pm on Monday, The Trade Unions (LO) will deliver its demands to their counterpart, the Norwegian Federation of businesses (NHO). This will be the first coordinated wage settlement in ten years. It also means that all of LO’s 200,000 members in the LO-NHO sector can go to strike if there is a breakdown in the negotiations.
– This should be a strong signal to the employer’s side to reach solutions, says the chairman of the Trade Unions, Hans-Christian Gabrielsen, after the LO’s Supervisory Board approved a coordinated settlement at the end of February.
The parties have a deadline to reach an agreement set to March 22. If not, there will be mediation until April 7 at the latest. If they can not land a deal at the national mediator’s office, the way is paved for the first major strike in the private sector for 18 years.
This year’s settlement is considered as very demanding
– I’m absolutely sure that there will be no agreement before the mediator is involved. It may well end up in a conflict. And it’s not often I say that before we even start negotiations, the head of the negotiating department in LO, Knut Bodding, stated at a press seminar earlier this week, writes Free Trade Unions (Frifagbevegelse),
Four main requirements
LO has four main requirements before this year’s settlement:
- To continue AFP as a contractual arrangement, but close the gaps that make many unintentionally to drop out of the scheme at the end of their working life.
- Increased purchasing power for all.
- Make changes to the occupational pension scheme so that employees achieve pension rights from the word go, regardless of how many per cent you work and starting from the age of 13 years old.
- Change the industrial agreement to ensure that the employer has to cover additional expenses for travel, board and lodging for employees sent on assignment. LO believes companies are speculating in creating mailbox companies near work sites to avoid these costs, and thereby make the individual employee pay those expenses themselves.
Wants reorganization of the AFP
NHO has the countered with demands for major reorganization of the Negotiated Pension Plan (AFP) scheme, not just the closing of gaps, as well as a maximum wage increase of 2.7 per cent.
The employers organization also rejects all of LO’s requirements for changes in the occupational pension.
Regarding travel, diet and lodging requirements, NHO has stated that “they do not want a business life where companies re-establish every three months” to avoid these provisions but that they will avoid rules that hinder or restrict the freedom to establish companies “for the purpose of creating jobs and values.
They have also set as a condition for accepting a coordinated settlement that only members of the Fellesforbundet Trade Union are allowed to strike because of breaches of these provisions. The other LO federations may be allowed to join in sympathy strikes after 14 days if any conflict lasts that long .
Arguing about AFP figures
It is especially the AFP scheme that becomes the ccrucial nut to crack in the settlement. Both parties agree that AFP has weaknesses and should be changed, but where LO wishes to paint over and close gaps, NHO demand a full reorganization.
NHO leader, Kirstin Skogen-Lund, has signaled that the NHO wants to cut the AFP additions, no longer make the scheme life-long, and turn it into a more earned up scheme. LO has signaled that an earned up solution is not their primary choice and points out that the risk of any returms will fall on the employees.
NHO has repeatedly stated that the scheme is heavily underfinanced and no longer sustainable, something LO rejects as being a smoke screen and “bullshit”.
Negotiations on AFP in the private sector are further complicated by that the parties in public sector last weekend arriving at a agreement which the NHO believes is too expensive and that will give unrealistic expectations for the private settlement.
It becomes complicated when everyone sees that the scheme adopted in the public sector is much better than what we can offer in the private, leader of Norsk Industri (Norwegian Industry) , Stein Lier-Hansen told NRK earlier this week.
He believes the solution in the public sector will increase the risk of strikes in the private sector.
Facts about this year’s payroll settlement
- This year’s wage settlement is a major settlement, which means that not only is it going to be negotiated about wages but that existing all wage agreements are open for revision.
- The umbrella organization of the Trade Unions (LO) decided for the first time in ten years to go for a coordinated settlement as opposed to each union negotiating individual settlements, which is the norm. This means that LO and NHO are negotiating centrally and that decisions are binding for all Trade Unions and businesses.
- Negotiations on a new AFP scheme, travel, board and lodging requirements for employees who are being sent on assignments and increased purchasing power for all groups are expected to be the most demanding issues in this year’s negotiations.
- NHO’s Board of Representatives has decided that there is room for a maximum 2.7 per cent wage increase this year.
- A breakdown in the negotiations may result in strikes by 200,000 members affected by the negotiations
- The NHO has been promised that the members of the Fellesforbundet have the sole right to go to strike if the parties do not agree on the reimbursment for travel, boarding and lodging, but that other unions can be allowed to join in with so-called sympathy strikes if the situation is prolonged.
- The private sector initiates the wage settlement, while the state is in charge of the subsequent negotiations in the public sector.
- The negotiations start on March 12 with a deadline of March 22. The deadline for mediation is set for April 7.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today