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Working in Norway: trade union, unionised, organised

Viktorija from Lithuania is in a union: – If I have a problem at work, I now have someone to ask for help

In Norway, half of all workers are members of a trade union. Many migrant workers have never been asked to join a trade union.
Four years ago, Viktorija and her husband Remigijus moved from Lithuania to Senja in Northern Norway.

Four years ago, Viktorija and her husband Remigijus moved from Lithuania to Senja in Northern Norway.


– You feel safe when someone stronger than you is standing behind you. Now that I am unionised, I know that I can always ask someone professionally if I have a question or have problems at work, Viktorija Piličauskienė says to FriFagbevegelse.

She came from Lithuania to Norway four years ago as a migrant worker and is a member of Fellesforbundet.

In Norway, fifty per cent of workers organise in a trade union. Being unionised is less common among migrant workers, according to a recent survey by the research foundation Fafo among Poles and Lithuanians, the two largest groups of foreign workers.

The most common way to join a union in Norway is recruitment, by a union representative or a colleague, in the workplace. However, the Fafo survey shows that many migrant workers have never been asked to join a union.

Wanted to be on the same level as the Norwegian workers

– People told me that it is common for all workers in Norway to join a trade union. And I wanted to be on the same level as the Norwegian workers, says Viktorija.

She moved to Norway with her husband and their children. In Senja in Northern Norway, they both found work with a fish processing company. After one year, Viktorija found a new job in the tourist industry.

– None of my colleagues there were Norwegians. I always heard a lot of questions and discussions: What is right in this situation? Do you know what the law says about this?

She needed answers, and because she did not have Norwegian colleagues to ask, she decided to seek advice from those who deal with work-related questions every day. After some research, she found out that Fellesforbundet was the right trade union for her.

– I was among the first to join a trade union in my workplace. When I joined, I got a lot of information from Fellesforbundet. I started sharing what I learned with my colleagues.

Viktorija was also among the first to get a permanent job with the company, where most workers were seasonal. She explains that those who did get permanent work wanted to create a community at work. More of her colleagues joined Fellesforbundet, and they formed a workplace branch (klubb), where she became a shop steward (tillitsvalgt).

– A union counsellor came and spoke with us. Being a part of the community and getting more knowledge gave us more confidence.

That was the beginning of a process leading to changes in the company.

Among other things, they landed their first local agreement. And, according to Viktorija, getting a collective agreement and local agreement was a positive thing for the whole company, not just the employees.

– We had positive feedback from the management after the agreement came into place, she says.

Related article: What is a collective agreement (tariffavtale)?

Recently, Viktorija changed jobs and started working in a new tourism department of a company in the fish processing industry. The employees working with fish are organised and have a collective agreement. The tourism department does not have a collective agreement yet. However, according to Viktorija, the employer has a lot of experience and follows the rules.

– With time, when we get more new colleagues, I can picture us getting both a workplace branch and a collective agreement, she says.

Viktorija finds being a trade union member important, as it gives her confidence and security in the workplace.

– I would recommend joining a union to everyone who comes to work in Norway from other countries. When you do not know the laws and rules of the country you have moved to, it is good to have someone you can always ask for help.

– As a member, you get several benefits, such as insurance. I see no reason not to join, she says.

Rights and wages

Being organised in a union gives you safety and community as a migrant worker, according to Marta Tryjanska, who moved to Norway from Poland in 2004.

Being organised in a union gives you safety and community as a migrant worker, according to Marta Tryjanska, who moved to Norway from Poland in 2004.

Per Flakstad

– When you are unionised, someone is working to secure your rights and wages every day, says Marta Tryjanska.

Today, she is a full-time union representative for Fagforbundet barn og oppvekst i Oslo responsible for training. In 2004, she came to Norway to work as an au pair in Haugesund.

– I met my husband there, who is also Polish and worked in Norway.

After she found permanent work in a nursery, Marta was in 2007 recruited to the trade union movement by a colleague who was a union representative for Fagforbundet.

After a while, Marta herself became a union representative and learned a lot about Norwegian working life.

She and her husband, a carpenter organised with Fellesforbundet, have since then settled down with children in Norway.

For Marta, being part of a community that works for the same rights for everyone and having the knowledge that you can get help when you need it are the most important reasons to be unionised.

She believes migrant workers are more prone to running into problems in the workplace because they do not speak Norwegian and because little information is available in their mother tongue.

Gradually, more and more union representatives in the workplaces and employees with the unions have backgrounds from different countries, Marta explains.

– If you have a problem and do not speak Norwegian, you’re likely to get a hold of someone who knows Polish, Lithuanian, French or English, for example, she says.

How to join a trade union

Find out which trade union represents your occupational group.

Talk to a union representative in the workplace, join via the union’s website or contact them if you need help.

What does it cost?

The dues for membership vary from union to union. However, you often pay a percentage of your salary, for example, 1,5 per cent. Thus, the less you earn, the less you pay.

Tax deduction

In Norway, you can deduct part of what you pay in union dues from your taxable income.

Today, you can deduct up to 3850 kroner (NOK) as a so-called union deduction.

The government has proposed to increase the amount to 5800 kroner in 2022.

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Article in Polish: Marta z Polski jest członkiem związku: – Dostaniesz dużo pomocy w przypadku kłopotów w miejscu pracy – wyjaśnia

Article in Lithuanian:


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