Norwegian Oil Workers: From Rebels to Parters in the Tripartite System
The Norwegian oil experience is often described as one of the few cases of a country managing to find oil and nevertheless remaining an egalitarian welfare state. Labor relations in the industry have similarly been described as a harmonious tripartite relationship between the authorities, the companies and trade unions. The chapter will show how labor has indeed been central for the way Norway has entered the world of oil. However, the story has by no means been a harmonious one. The chapter give a historical overview, showing how relationships between oil workers, companies and the state have changed between different phases: 1. The pioneering years (1966–1978), when foreign companies with strong anti-union attitudes dominated. 2. The oil workers’ uprising (1978–1983) when organized oil workers established themselves in a strong position after one of the most intense strike waves in Norwegian history. The state weighed in on the side of the workers, partly through regulation and partly by forcing foreign companies to join Norwegian employer associations. 3. Norwegianization and institutions as disciplinary measures (1983–2000) when the tripartite system was used to improve safety, but also to discipline unions, ensuring that oil workers did not use their power to breach national wage level targets. 4. Internationalization (2000 and beyond) when Statoil and other dominant Norwegian companies have become more international, importing individualist-oriented management systems that challenge the collective approach that the tripartite system was based on.