Four unions file suit against Norway following strike arbitration

SAFE, Industri Energi, the Confederation of Vocational Unions (YS), and the Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) have filed a lawsuit against the Norwegian state with UN agency the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

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Safe er splittet etter at professor Helge Ryggvik har fått jobben.- Forbundsstyret var ikke enstemmig. Det var et simpelt flertall for Helge Ryggvik, sier Safe-leder Hilde-Marit Rysst. Foto: Siv Dolmen

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The move comesafter government-imposed compulsory arbitration regarding last year’s NorwegianContinental Shelf collective wage agreement dispute.

“Webelieve thestate violated the ILO’s conventions protecting the freedom of the right to become a unionmember, the right to strike, and the right to free collective bargaining.Norway has ratifiedthese conventions, and is therefore obliged tofollow them. The state has violated its international obligations by moving for compulsory arbitration,” Hilde-Marit Rysst andLeif Sande, unionshop stewards at SAFE and Industri Energi, respectively, said in joint statement,Friday.

610 stuck

Both cooperatingunions called their members out on strike after unsuccessful negotiations and mediation with the Norwegian Oil andGas Association during the spring of 2012. “The industrial action we implemented only comprised 610 members at threeemployers. The modest scale was adopted preciselyto avoid major economicdamage to society and ensure continued gas supply to Europe. The response from employers was to warn of lockouts for all ofour members at all installations. Their purpose was obvious: TheAssociation "ordered" compulsory arbitrationfrom the government,” according to thetwo union leaders.

In the writ, the unions claim thegovernment's justification for compulsoryarbitration is not tenable, as the population’s life, health, or personal safety would not bethreatened by continued industrial action. The government's argument about economicconsequences does not provide a legal basis for the decision either.

The ILO has handled cases involving Norway’s use of compulsory arbitration in the oil industry on anumber of occasions previously. The verdict in these has been that Norwayhas broken conventions the country is bound by.

Provoked

This iswhy SAFE andIndustri Energi think that thegovernment’s reasoning for its decision is particularly provocativewhen it clarifies that “The Ministry of Labour believes it necessary to intervene inthe dispute under any circumstances where a conflict betweeninternational conventions and presentuse of compulsory arbitration should bedemonstrated.”

“The statement confirms that Norway intentionally setsinternational obligations aside, and determines itself when interventionis deemed "necessary". Byso doing, the state limits the right for free negotiations andthe right to strike in Norway. We can’t tacitly acceptthis, and therefore ask the ILO deal with the case,”Hilde-Marit Rysstand Leif Sandesaid in the statement.

This is a horrible sentence inNorwegian, is this what the Ministry means, do you think?

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