From in-house association to independent union

person by Kristin Øye Gjerde, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
An in-house association (also known as a “company” or “yellow” union) of the kind launched by Egil Berle in 1973 aimed to be non-political, and stood apart from the rest of the union movement. Known as the Phillips Petroleum Company Norway Employee Committee (PPOEC), this body concentrated on providing good information and communication during negotiations with Phillips rather than making one-sided demands and strike threats.
— Tom Nordahl til venstre og sekretær Jan B.M. Strømme i Norsk sjømannsforbund.
© Norsk Oljemuseum

But another unionisation option was available on Ekofisk. An initiative was taken in the summer of 1973 to organise Norwegian drilling personnel on Ekofisk.

Led by Tom Nordahl, this led to the formation of the Oil Workers’ Union. It was initially a branch affiliated with the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and reluctantly lumped with the Norwegian Seamen’s Union.

But the latter was poorly equipped to handle the new flow of offshore workers recruited to commission the production facilities on Ekofisk.

According to historian Marie Smith-Solbakken, the Seamen’s Union never succeeded in playing an active role on the fixed facilities. It secured a much stronger position on the mobile units, where the employer side comprised Norwegian shipowners.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Marie Smith-Solbakken, Oljearbeiderkulturen. Historien om cowboyer og rebeller. 1997: 149.

It was not until 1977 that the LO established a union for oil workers within its own system, known as the Norwegian Oil and Petrochemical Workers Union (Nopef).

In the meantime, the Ekofisk Committee – as the PPOEC came to be known – had developed from its initial status as an in-house association to become an effective independent union.

The key goal for the Ekofisk workforce was to be classified as construction and industry personnel rather than seafarers, which was significant for both pay and industrial safety.

Øyvind Krovik, a newly qualified electrician with a background from Norway’s Young Conservatives, became the catalyst and driving force in this work.

Published 30. July 2019   •   Updated 7. October 2019
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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