The EFTA (European Free Trade Assoctiaion) Court has judged that the collective agreement for ports in Norway is in violation of the EEA (European Economic Area) Agreement. Thus also the legality of the port workers' exclusive right to load and unload ships in Norwegian ports.
- After three years of struggle, with losses in lower Norwegian courts and an ongoing boycott, Holship and Bedriftsforbundet finally have won a court case saying that the Transport Workers Association collective agreements at the ports are in conflict with the EEA Agreement, says lawyer Nicolay Skarning in a comment.
Skarning represents the Danish shipping company Holship and Bedrifsforbundet, a business association.
The Norwegian trade unions requires Holship to employ workers with collective agreements at Norwegian standards. Holship has refused to accept what they believe is a "port monopoly."
Now the case is passed on to the Norwegian Supreme Court for its final verdict.
Only trade unionists
The collective agreement that the Transport Workers Union and LO (The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions) has signed with NHO (The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise) is by the unions and the Norwegian lower courts interpreted to give registered dock workers priority for loading and unloading of ships.
Holskip have wanted to use their own staff without Norwegian tariff contract for this work.
- We assume that the Supreme Court will follow the EFTA Court's verdict later this spring, says Nils Skarning.
- Thus, 100 years of port monopoly in Norway is over and we will get cheaper and more efficient ports with multiple unloading offices and several unions, he says.
The Conflict in the port of Drammen between Norwegian Transport Workers' Unions (NTF) and the Danish shipping company has been going on for several years.
Among other things, the unions blockaded the port, to prevent Holship from unloading with its own crew.
The Union has not given up
The Norwegian Transport Workers' Unions has won in the Drammen District Court and the Court of Appeal, but now finally not in the EFTA Court.
Lars Hansen, union leader in Transport Workers Union, says in a comment to VG, a Norwegian daily, that he believes that the Supreme Court will follow Norwegian law and not "the bureaucrats in Brussels" when the country's top judges will finally decide on the dispute later this spring.
And, if that does not help, he is ready to mobilize all LO unions in a fight against the whole EEA Agreement:
- It will be surprising if the Supreme Court challenges a centuries-old collective agreement, said Hansen told VG.
We will soon get the final verdict, which is extremely important for future sea transport in Norway.