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Norway – Temporary recruitment not a threat to trade unions

06 August 2013

Statistics released by the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises (NHO) confirmed that levels of temporary employment in Norway have remained stable at 8%, the same level for the past four or five years. Thereby undermining the argument from the Norwegian trade unions, that temporary employment is a threat to the Norwegian working way of life.  

The Temporary Agency Work Directive required all EU countries to implement legal employment parity for temporary workers (including working hours, remuneration, holiday entitlement, etc) by 5 December 2011. On 13 July 2012, the European Economic Area confirmed the incorporation of the EU Directive in the EEA Agreement and thus the Directive would enter into force for the European Free Trade Association countries of Norway, Lichtenstein, and Iceland from 1 January 2013.

Following the announcement, Norwegian trade unions picketed the government, brandishing placards opposing the new legislation. The sitting Labour government came under increased pressure by the trade unions to repeal the Directive under the threat of losing trade union support for re-election.

Figures from Statistics Norway reveal that of the 8% total temporary employment, only 1.3% are employed via recruitment agencies, a figure that has remained steady for several years. These statistics admittedly do not capture all temporary employees; as those recruited from Poland for short-term employment in Norway are not considered representative of the Norwegian population.

While trade unions are not facing the threatening employment scenario they once feared, their protests have garnered them some concessions from the government.

Even Hagelien, technical manager at NHO, commented: “That the labour movement is longer as critical of the employment agency directive [is no surprise to us]. Through various stimulus packages, which unfortunately have been perceived as battling against the staffing industry instead of a fighting to ensure fair working conditions; the government, following strong pressure from trade unions has in fact introduced new restrictions on recruitment. This [flies in the face] of the principles of the employment agency directive where one had assumed a balance between improved rights for employees and fewer restrictions on the staffing industries.”    

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