Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Associations
The two main unions are the LO (Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions), representing employees, and the NHO (Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry), representing employers. Both unions are umbrella organisations 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.
Rights and Importance of Trade Unions
The rights of trade unions are regulated in the Labour Disputes Act. Generally, trade unions have a right to enter into collective agreements. Collective bargaining agreements between employees and employers organisations 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. The Main Agreement is incorporated into the first part of all collective bargaining agreements entered into by affiliated organisations.
The Main Agreement obliges the parties to maintain industrial peace for the duration of the collective bargaining agreement, known as “the peace period”. This means that measures such as strikes and lockouts, etc., may not be employed during labour conflicts until the collective bargaining agreement has expired. Such action shall only be performed during the negotiations. Disputes about the validity or content of collective bargaining agreements and disputes arising out of the collective bargaining agreements are heard by a separate tribunal, the Labour Court.
Employees have the right to participate in the management of the workplace. They are also entitled to representation on the board of directors.
Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies
Safety representatives shall be elected at all undertakings subject to the Working Environment Act. Furthermore, undertakings that regularly employ at least 50 employees, shall have a working environment committee, wherein the employer, the employees and the occupational health service are represented. 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 on questions relating to the safety, health and welfare of the employees.