1 – Irregular violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Norway

The ITUC affiliates are the Confederation of Unions for Professionals, Confederation of Vocational Unions, and the Landsorganisasjonen i Norge

In practice

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The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions takes Holship conflict to the European Court of Human Rights01-04-2017

The conflict between trade unions and freight entreprises in Drammen port has been ongoing since 2013 and in recent years, has become a legal dispute.

The current framework collective agreement for dock workers dates back to 1976 and was concluded by the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and its affiliate the Norwegian Transport Workers’ Union (NTF) and the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises (NHO) and its affiliate the Norwegian Logistics and Freight Association (NHO Logistics and Transport).

It sets out a fixed pay scheme for dock workers in 13 of the largest ports in Norway and also states that any vessel of 50 tons’ deadweight sailing out of or into a Norwegian port must be loaded or unloaded by dock workers. The Administration Office for Dock Workers, an independent body, was established to administer the work and assign workers to their duties.

In spring 2013, however, the Norwegian subsidiary of Holship (a Danish transport company) used its own employees for loading and unloading its ships in the port of Drammen, instead of employees assigned by the Administrative Office at the port. This led to a spontaneous two-day blockade led by local workers. NTF asked Holship twice to negotiate a collective agreement in the context of the framework agreement. However, Holship refused to negotiate, and NTF gave notice of a boycott boycott A collective refusal to buy or use the goods or services of an employer to express disapproval with its practices. Primary boycotts are used to put direct pressure on an employer, while a secondary boycott involves the refusal to deal with a neutral employer with the view of dissuading it from patronising the target employer. , a form of industrial action industrial action Any form of action taken by a group of workers, a union or an employer during an industrial dispute to gain concessions from the other party, e.g. a strike, go-slow or an overtime ban, or a lockout on the part of the employer. used instead of a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, as NTF had no members at Holship.

The parties proceeded to take the matter to court in Drammen. In March 2014 the Drammen District Court ruled in favour of the trade unions. Holship also lost its appeal against the first instance ruling in September 2014. Holship had argued that the boycott boycott A collective refusal to buy or use the goods or services of an employer to express disapproval with its practices. Primary boycotts are used to put direct pressure on an employer, while a secondary boycott involves the refusal to deal with a neutral employer with the view of dissuading it from patronising the target employer. was illegal, and that the framework collective agreement was in breach of the competition law and the right to free establishment within the single market. NTF argued that collective agreements fall outside the scope of these regulations.

The employers then turned to the Supreme Court, which decided to ask the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Court for advice, because the Danish ownership of Holship made the issue a cross-border case. The question posed to the court was whether the exemption of a collective agreement from European Economic Area (EEA) competition law applies to the use of boycott boycott A collective refusal to buy or use the goods or services of an employer to express disapproval with its practices. Primary boycotts are used to put direct pressure on an employer, while a secondary boycott involves the refusal to deal with a neutral employer with the view of dissuading it from patronising the target employer. against a port user in order to procure acceptance of a collective agreement, when such an acceptance entails that the port user must give preference to buying unloading and loading services from an Administration Office instead of using its own employees for the same work.

The EFTA Court backed the employers in April 2016 saying that the collective agreement’s exemption from EEA competition rules did not “cover the assessment of a priority of engagement rule such as the one at issue”.

The Supreme Court then heard the case in December 2016. It concluded that the clauses of the collective agreement restricted the freedom of establishment, which could not be justified under EEA law. It also found that the Administration Office’s role prohibited other economic players from entering this particular market – in this case Holship at the port of Drammen. It ruled that imposing a boycott boycott A collective refusal to buy or use the goods or services of an employer to express disapproval with its practices. Primary boycotts are used to put direct pressure on an employer, while a secondary boycott involves the refusal to deal with a neutral employer with the view of dissuading it from patronising the target employer. to oblige companies to use the workers distributed by the Administration Office was not legal, as it went against free movement in the EEA area.

The ruling put an end to the boycott boycott A collective refusal to buy or use the goods or services of an employer to express disapproval with its practices. Primary boycotts are used to put direct pressure on an employer, while a secondary boycott involves the refusal to deal with a neutral employer with the view of dissuading it from patronising the target employer. , as well as to several “solidarity strikes” in other Norwegian ports. However, LO submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), arguing that Norway had violated their right to enter into collective agreements under Article 11 of the Convention. According to LO, the Supreme Court erred in finding that the claimants could not lawfully enforce the terms of the collective agreement against Holship and in subordinating the right to collectively bargain to the freedom of establishment under the EEA agreement. This places undue restrictions on both the right to collectively bargain and the right to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. The case is still pending before the ECHR.

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