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Illustration of tripartite cooperation

Three is the magic number

No one can secure jobs and value creation alone. The parties in Norwegian working life have a long tradition of finding solutions to shared challenges.

We have a tradition in Norway that is quite unique in a global context, a tradition that has been crucial for the development in the oil and gas industry.

Looking back at when the industry got started 50 years ago, regulated working hours and permanent contracts were not something all North Sea workers could take for granted.

– In the early 1980s we accomplished one of the most important tasks; getting proper collective wage agreements on the shelf. This was key for the relationship between the parties in the industry, says Jan Hodneland from Norwegian Oil and Gas, an employer and special interest organisation for companies operating on the Norwegian shelf.

He has 40 years of experience from the sector and negotiated on behalf of industry employers for many years. He emphasises that temperatures have been high at times and that the parties have taken big steps together.

– The cooperation has always been improving. Take safety and HSE, for example, which have gone from being an employer responsibility to becoming a prime topic for cooperation between employees, employers and the authorities. Together, they have worked deliberately and continuously to improve safety on the Norwegian continental shelf, says Hodneland.

An important part of the story of tripartite cooperation dates back to when the company then known as Statoil was awarded operatorship on the Statfjord field in 1987. A Norwegian player as operator reinforced the Norwegian working life tradition of cooperation between parties, according to Hodneland.

He says that working hours and working hours arrangements have been central to many collective wage agreement negotiations.

– The addition of the fifth holiday week in 2000/2001 was significant for the offshore working hours scheme, and the parties agreed on the current scheme on the NCS in 2002 – two weeks of work and four weeks off. Amending the regulations on the shelf in the early 2000s has also contributed to closer union-management cooperation within health, safety and the environment (HSE), says Hodneland.

So - what will the future bring? We are in the midst of the greatest challenge of our time, the climate crisis. Together, we will develop new energy and new industries. Equinor’s ambition is to continue delivering energy to our society with lower emissions and net zero by 2050.

Hodneland points to two important areas where union-management cooperation will be vital going forward.

– We must develop the industry in an even more sustainable manner and work together to reduce the footprint from the industry’s activities. And, we must secure a financially sustainable development going forward, for example by effectively extending field lifetimes. These challenges are closely interconnected, he says.

The challenges are shared and we will find the solutions by working together. This is how we will ensure a sustainable development and safe jobs for the years to come.

Important milestones for union-management cooperation from the early years on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS)

The cooperation between the parties on the NCS was not established from the beginning. Employees did not have the same protections or wage and working conditions as on the mainland. Those were somewhat contentious times. Source: Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Trade union leaders in Equinor on cooperation, history and the future

Bjørn Asle Teige, YS (Confederation of Vocational Unions)/SAFE

What do you believe are the most important advances the working life parties have accomplished over the past 50 years?

The foundation was laid with the “10 oil commandments” which were made for the industry. This facilitated broad-based cooperation that would benefit society as a whole, the industry and the involved people.

After this, good collective agreements were made for the industry and everyone who works here. The trade unions were responsible for this monumental effort.

What are the most important challenges in our future, where union-management cooperation will be key?

Energy is one of the most important input factors in our society.

The parties must have the courage to continue working to secure our country’s position as a strong energy nation with a solid industry and supplier group with top-notch expertise, quality and our own production.

Per Martin Labråthen, Industri Energi

What do you believe are the most important advances the working life parties have accomplished over the past 50 years?

The partial privatisation of Statoil came into place after extensive cooperation between the trade unions, Statoil as an employer and the political system. This was a significant cooperative effort which proved that tripartite cooperation is important for such major changes. In my opinion, this has benefitted both our country and private enterprise in all the years following the partial privatisation.

The merger between Statoil and Norsk Hydro in 2007 was particularly important for establishing a solid and future-oriented oil and gas company. This was another example of extensive cooperation between trade unions and Statoil/Hydro, as well as the political authorities. The years since have shown that this established a company that was truly robust enough to face challenges in a global perspective.

What are the most important challenges in our future, where union-management cooperation will be key?

Succeeding in the energy transition is clearly the next big challenge going forward. Establishing carbon capture and storage, offshore wind, hydrogen and an emission-free oil and gas production will be both demanding and important in the future. Achieving the zero-emission ambition by 2050 is a tall order. It will require extensive collaboration, centred around union-management cooperation, in order for us to succeed.

Hans Haldorsen, Tekna

What do you believe are the most important advances the working life parties have accomplished over the past 50 years?

We are standing on the shoulders of the union representatives who came before us – among others the first trade union on the Norwegian shelf, the Ekofisk Committee, established in 1974. At times, the trade unions met considerable resistance in the cultural differences relating to how working life was organised. Step by step, safety and working conditions for both onshore and offshore employees have been improved through the tripartite cooperation between trade unions, employers and the State. The energy sector and society as a whole are constantly changing through all manner of transitions, sustainability, technology and internationalisation – and our focus on safety and workers’ rights will be equally relevant today and as we move into the future.

What are the most important challenges in our future, where union-management cooperation will be key?

Digitalisation and online communication are incredibly effective tools, but even an excellent tool can be used incorrectly. We are currently seeing considerable flexibility with extensive use of remote work and home offices. This could benefit both the company and employees, but we must work together to ensure local value creation, cultural development, as well as to safeguard HSE and rights for where work is actually carried out.

The energy transition: skills development for employees is a precondition for companies’ success when countries and companies invest major resources in renewable energy.

Roar Laug, Lederne (Norwegian Organisation of Managers and Executives)

What do you believe are the most important advances the working life parties have accomplished over the past 50 years?

Through all these years, Equinor has developed highly skilled employees, which will be very significant in connection with further developing the company, not least in order to execute the decisions made in relation to renewable energy and further exploration. This positive development has been possible through a well-established climate for cooperation and a cooperative model based on the principles in Basic Agreements relating to cooperation and participation. Through this, we have collectively developed a unique degree of expertise and technology.

What are the most important challenges awaiting us, where union-management cooperation will be key?

Based on the expertise and technology developed through 50 years of cooperation, through interaction and through the tripartite cooperation, Equinor is well-prepared to continue oil and gas production with the lowest possible emissions for many years to come. The same resource base is also equipped to establish and develop new forms of energy that will contribute to achieving stated climate goals and meeting the energy needs of the future.

This is one of many stories from our first 50 years. It is also part of the story of how we will succeed with the energy transition.

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