Employers Associations and Trade Unions in Norway

1. Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Organizations

A union, according to the Labour Disputes Act, is defined as “any associations of workers or workers’ associations when the association has the purpose and interests of promoting workers’ interests to their employers.” There is no requirement that the union have its own statutes, a board, etc. A union is, however, often a member of a larger association or confederation.

The two most important unions are LO (The Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions), representing employees, and NHO (The Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry), representing employers. Both unions are umbrella organizations and consist of a number of smaller unions. The affiliated unions to LO are often vertically organised, including both blue and white collar workers, and cover both the private and the public sectors. They are actively involved in both political and judicial issues and have become powerful actors in Norwegian community and social life.

2. Rights and Importance of Trade Unions

Trade unions’ rights are regulated in the Labor Disputes Act. Generally, trade unions have a right to enter into collective agreements. Collective bargaining agreements between employees and employers organizations are usually negotiated every other year. LO and NHO are involved in most of the collective bargaining agreements entered into in Norway and have developed the so-called Main Agreement. The Main Agreement is a framework agreement that contains the general rights and basic rules in the workplace.

3. Types of Representation

Employee representatives to represent the organized employees shall be elected at every enterprise where the enterprise or the employees so demand. At enterprises with up to twenty-five employees, two employee representatives may be elected.

4. Number of Representatives

The number of employee representatives at enterprises having over twenty-five employees shall be as follows:

  • from 26 to 50 employees: 3 employee representatives
  • from 51 to 150: 4 employee representatives
  • from 151 to 300: 6 employee representatives
  • from 301 to 500: 8 employee representatives
  • from 501 to 750: 10 employee representatives
  • over 750: 12 employee representatives

5. Appointment of Representatives

Employee representatives shall be appointed from among workers of recognized ability, with experience and insight into working conditions at the enterprise. Whenever possible, they shall have worked at the enterprise or in the company as a whole for the last 2 years. Elections are for one calendar year. The chairperson, vice-chairperson and secretary may be elected for 2 years.

6. Tasks and Obligations of Representatives

Employee representatives shall be recognized as the representatives and spokespersons of the organized employees. They are also entitled to receive information and discuss with the management of the enterprise matters relating to the financial position of the enterprise, its production and its development
– matters immediately related to the workplace and everyday operations – general wage and working conditions at the enterprise, concerning matters of reorganization of operations and concerning matters of company law, etc.

7. Employees’ Representation in Management

The Norwegian Constitution gives employees the right to participate in the management of the workplace. Both the Private Limited Liability Companies Act of 1997 and the Public Limited Companies Act of 1997 entitles employees to representation on the board of directors.

8. Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies

Safety representatives shall be elected at all undertakings subject to the Working Environment Act. At undertakings with less than ten employees, the parties may agree in writing upon a different arrangement, which may involve agreeing that the undertaking shall not have a safety representative.

The working environment committee shall make efforts to establish a fully satisfactory working environment in the undertaking. The committee shall participate in planning safety and environmental work and shall follow up questions relating to the safety, health and welfare of the employees.

For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in Norway, please contact Storeng, Beck & Due Lund (SBDL)