Today is May 1st, the International Worker’s day. Here in Scandinavia that means time off from work and large gatherings with speeches from politicians.
It’s often the unions and the socialist/social democratic parties that organize the May 1st demontrations, gatherings and speeches.
Back in the days Conservative politicians would frown and ridicule May 1st, but this is not the case anymore. Now you’ll often hear Conservative politicians praise May 1st, and even praise the unions. As is the case with Conservative politician Heidi Nordby Lunde.
Why is that? What has happened?
“Trepartssamarbeid” – three group cooperation
In Norway, and the rest of Scandinavia, we have a model we call “trepartssamarbeid”, which can be losely translated into “three group cooperation”.
Unions are one of those three groups, and they’re an important group. The other two are the employers’ organizations and the government. These three come together to negotiate important sides of the Norwegian workers’ lives. Not just their wages, but pensions, work hours, and even various safety measures for employers.
The idea behind the three group cooperation is that things are much better solved by negotiation than through conflict and strikes. The labor organizations may want more than the employee organizations are willing to give, but by talking things through, they may find a compromize everyone can live with.
In some cases the negotiations end up in agreements and in some cases the negotiations even end up in changes to the labor laws.
Why would conservative politicians support this?
In some countries conservative politicians would be all about abolishing and even outlawing labor organizations. They would support employees’ in their demands for cheap labor. Unions would be seen as the enemy.
That’s not really the case in these parts of the woods. Conservative politicians have seen the value of negotiations instead of conflicts and strikes. There is something to be said for sitting down at a table and talking things through instead of seeing the other part of the work life as an enemy.
Unions also hold an important role at the work places. They will voice concerns among the employees and can also be a part of local negotiations on anything from how high the yearly raises will be to making sure the best person gets the job.
Scandinavian worklife is all about negotiations and talking, which is a good thing, really. That give us a better chance at solving problems in the long run.
This is why it always surprises me when I hear about politicians – or employers – in other countries trying to ban or restrict labor unions. Do they really know what they’re doing?
Happy May 1st!