Norway Oil Unions Start Wage Talks Two Years After Record Strike

Norwegian offshore-platform workers began pay talks that may include an unresolved dispute over pensions responsible for their longest strike two years ago.

The row over plans to raise the age that staff can claim full pensions probably won’t lead to a walkout this time, said a union representing about 4,000 of the 7,615 covered by the talks. Norway is western Europe’s biggest oil and gas producer.

“I doubt there will be a strike due to those issues,” Leif Sande, Industry Energy union chief, said by phone. The talks will focus on securing a good pay increase, Sande said.

The Norwegian Organisation of Managers and Executives, representing about 900, will push for pensions to be discussed.

The previous action “didn’t lead to a satisfying solution for us, so the risk of a strike is present,” union leader Jan Olav Brekke said by phone today. “We want to find a solution.”

The 2012 strike, the first by offshore workers since 2004, lasted more than two weeks and cut about 15 percent of Norway’s oil output and 7 percent of its gas. The government intervened to stop the action as companies threatened a staff lockout that would have halted about 12 percent of Europe’s oil production. Talks through May 8 take place as oil companies including Statoil ASA, Norway’s biggest, cut spending plans to tackle rising costs.

Negotiations cover workers at oil companies, some drillers and employees of catering companies supplying platforms. Failure to reach agreement means a public mediator will be named to lead further talks. If those also fail, a strike can be called.

Pensions Talks

The Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, with members such as Statoil, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and ConocoPhillips, believes pensions shouldn’t be discussed in wage talks, spokeswoman Eli Ane Nedreskaar said by phone. The lobby said in a statement today that wage increases shouldn’t exceed a 3.3 percent gain obtained by other industrial workers in negotiations this year.

The Safe union, representing about 2,500 oil workers, will seek a bigger raise, daily Dagens Naeringsliv reported today, citing an interview with its leader Hilde-Marit Rysst. Rysst didn’t return calls from Bloomberg News today and yesterday.

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