Vikings (should) Rule

Almost 1,000 years after the Battle of Clontarf we are still paying the price for opting out of the Nordic way of doing things. Not just when it comes to oil exploration but union recognition.
The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions has used the threat of sympathetic strikes and a boycott of its products to force a company selling workwear to sign a collective bargaining agreement. This followed a three year battle for recognition. The unions initially approached Bekken & Strøm AS in 2008 but it resisted every step of the way and was not bound by national agreements because it was not affiliated to any employer organisation.
It was finally forced to recognise the United Federation of Trade Unions (Fellesforbundet) and the Norwegian Employees in Commerce and Offices (HK) union because Norway recognises the right of workers to use tactics that are illegal here.
After failing to make any progress in talks the unions brought their claim to the Norwegian national arbitration authority in late 2010. Mandatory mediation proved unsuccessful and on 22 November 2010 the unions served strike notice. Company lawyers said the notice was illegal, violated the procedural rules of the Labour Disputes Act and the unions would be held liable for damages if the strike went ahead. However the Labour Court found the notice was lawful and the 19 employees went out on strike on 26 November.
To increase the pressure, the Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions and HK gave warning of sympathetic action by 500 workers in six freight-forwarding companies who would black Bekken & Strøm from 13 January 2011. The unions announced simultaneously that they would encourage trade unionists to boycott work wear sold by the company.
Again Bekken & Strøm took legal action. But the Oslo City Court found that neither the sympathetic action, nor the boycott could be regarded as acts of negligence by the unions. Moreover the court ruled that there was a ‘reasonable relationship’ between ‘the unions demand for a collective agreement and the damage caused by the actions’. The court not alone concluded that the unions complied with the law but ordered the company to pay the unions nearly €38,000 in legal costs.
Following its court defeat, Bekken & Strøm signed the collective agreement and joined the employers’ Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise. Maybe the wrong side won the battle of Clontarf after all.