Wednesday, May 22, 2024

It takes time for the parties in the public sector – negotiating the wages of over 630,000 employees

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It may be difficult to reach agreement on the agreement structure in the state. The negotiation deadline expires on the night of Wednesday. (From left) Jens B. Jahren, head of YS Stat, Egil André Aas, head of LO Stat, Guro E. Lind, head of Unio stat, Gisle Norheim, director of personnel for the state and Kari Tønnessen Nordli, head of Akademikerne stat. Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB

Of NTB | 30.04.2024 05:54:03

Working life: From what NTB understands, the question of whether employees in the state should be subject to one or two main tariff agreements can be so difficult to clarify that the parties must have the help of mediators. The dispute over the agreement model in the state had already been going on for several weeks when this year’s main settlement got underway a week ago.

Today, Akademikerne Stat and Unio Stat have their collective agreement, while YS Stat and LO Stat have theirs. The employer – i.e. the state – as well as LO and YS want an end to that. The academics, for their part, have threatened to strike if they are tried to withdraw the agreement.

– It is an absolute requirement to keep our agreement model in the state. It ensures that all the wages are distributed out in the businesses through local, collective negotiations, said leader Kari Tønnessen Nordli in Akademikerne stat in connection with the handover of claims.

The main difference between the agreements is that for Akademikerne and Unio’s members the negotiated salary framework is distributed locally, while LO and YS negotiate general supplements for their members centrally. The two-part agreement structure facilitates internal inequalities between the occupational groups in the state, the opponents believe.

– We are not going back to a model where there are only central general additions. It’s a “no-go”, Kari Tønnessen told Nordli E24 this winter when asked if her members were willing to strike to keep the current agreement structure.

The mediation deadline does not expire until 23 May. A possible strike could therefore be a fact from 24 May.

– We always negotiate with the aim of reaching a solution. At the same time, the demand from our members is clear that we must secure increased real wages for the whole team, and if we have to go to mediation to achieve that goal, yes, we have to, says Mette Nord, leader of LO Municipality and the Trade Union to NTB.

All the bargaining unions involved have the demand for increased purchasing power – what you have left from the wage increase when inflation has taken its toll – at the top of their list of demands. Exactly how the financial requirements are set up is not known to the public, but it is clear that the 5.2 per cent framework for front-line subjects probably constitutes a rather strict limitation for the parties in the public sector.

If the estimate that the Technical Calculation Committee has come up with for price growth this year – 4.1 per cent – ​​is correct, the average real wage growth will be 1.1 per cent this year. But both Norges Bank and Statistics Norway (SSB) believe that price growth will end up even lower. In that case, the real wage increase will be even higher.

When working life director Tor Arne Gangsø in KS met the press before the settlement, he was clear that the municipalities had asked for help to do something about the lack of health personnel. Both now and in the future, there will be a major shortage of health personnel, according to the Health Personnel Commission’s report.

– Last time the settlement went to mediation, the teachers were thrown under the bus. If the mediator does it again, there will be conflict in the KS area, said head of negotiations Klemet Rønning-Aaby in Unio’s own collective bargaining podcast before the claim handover.

The municipal settlement covers 450,000 employees, while the state settlement covers a further 165,000 employees. The collective bargaining agreement in Oslo municipality applies to 16,500 public employees.

The negotiations in Oslo are conducted between Oslo municipality at the city council’s finance department, and the four negotiating associations LO Kommune Oslo, Unio, Akademikerne and YS. Here, too, real wage increases are at the top of the priority list.

Both for the settlement in the state, municipalities (KS area) and in Oslo municipality, which is a separate tariff area, the deadline expires at midnight on the night of Wednesday 1 May. If an agreement is not reached then, the negotiations are moved up to the Ombudsman in an attempt to reach an agreement through voluntary mediation. If they are not successful here, the parties must go through a final round of forced mediation before a possible conflict – ergo strike – is a fact.

It is likely that KS will give priority to groups who work night and weekend, who are primarily healthcare workers, among other things in the form of increased disadvantage allowances to stimulate increased recruitment. This may set the stage for a new dispute between the teachers and the health workers in this year’s settlement as well. Two years ago, the teachers went on strike which lasted from 20 June to 27 September.

(© NTB)

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