162 former Statoil-employees won their case over the company at the Court of Appeal in December last year. The verdict was again appealed, and on Tuesday the case will go to the Supreme Court.
“I am very anxious about the verdict from the Supreme Court,” says Margo Pedersen, pictured, from Paradis in Stavanger.
The 77-year old retired in 1998, following 24 years at Statoil. In her work for the company, she dealt with salaries, tax, travel and conditions for foreign employees. Declarations of supportShe is one of the 162 pensioners who appealed the decision of Stavanger district court, where the pensioners lost the case. On 4th December 2007, the former Statoil-employees won the case in Gulating Court of Appeals. StatoilHydro appealed the decision concerning service pension to the High Court.There the matter will be dealt with on Tuesday and Wednesday.
”For me, this is about the principle of the matter. When Statoil told us about the decision, I immediately said that they had stepped over the line,” says Margot Pedersen to Aftenbladet. She has subsequently received declarations of support and telephone calls from all over the country.
The right of management
The heart of the conflict is how the company should regulate their private pensions. The pensioners claim that the private pension on top of the state pension should be adjusted in the same way as in the State Pension Fund.
StatoilHydro on the other hand, wishes to have the freedom to regulate their pensions if the income from the pension fund permits. Travel to OsloPensioner and former project leader at Statoil, Atle Tunes, will travel to Oslo on Monday afternoon to follow the case from the gallery. He will be accompanied by five or six other pensioners from Statoil.
“If StatoilHydro continues in the same way as at the Court of Appeals, they will argue that the company has the right of management over their employees. But if the right of management goes before an appointment contract, why do we need a contract?” he asks rhetorically.
Adjustment of pension
In practice, the verdict from the Gulating Court of Appeal, which said that when parliament each year raises the lower index of the National Insurance, (abbreviated as G), the company also should adjust their private pensions accordingly.Aftenbladet has found earlier that StatoilHydro can be forced to pay in a once-for-all premium of between 50 and 60 million kroner to cover their pension obligations.
Similar case in Trondheim
The pension case which is to come up at the Supreme Court on Tuesday can have relevance for a similar case which will be dealt with at Trondheim district court. Fokus Bank first gave their employees the choice between the old and the new pension schemes in 2003. Two years later, all those who had opted to remain with the old production-based scheme were automatically transferred to the new contribution scheme, which for most of them implies a substantial lossOn average, the Fokus-employees will lose 202,000 kroner from their total pension as a result of the transfer made in 2006. “We are a couple of steps ahead of the Fokus-case,” says Statoil-pensioner, Atle Thunes. Verdict in a weekThe Statoil-case will commence at 9.15 am on Tuesday at the Supreme Court. The first day is given to Statoil’s and NHO’s lawyers. ”I don’t want to comment on the matter. What I have to say, I will say in court,” says Lars Ivar Holo from the law firm, Arntzen de Besche to Aftenbladet. He represents StatoilHydro.On Wednesday, lawyer Joar Heide from the law firm, Ræder, who is representing the Statoil pensioners will plead their case.
”It usually takes a week to reach a verdict,” says Heide. Vanligvis tar det en uke før dommen faller, sier Heide.
The period of waiting is thereby nearly over for the Statoil pensioners.