The first oil crisisFirst oil production from a fixed Norwegian platform

The first company union

person by Kristin Øye Gjerde, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Egil Berle, one of the first operators employed by Phillips in Norway, played a central role in the formation of the first company or “yellow” union on Ekofisk.
— Egil Berle. Photo: Liv Åshild L. Ervik/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

This Phillips Petroleum Company Norway Employee Committee was not a trade union in the traditional sense, as Berle explains:

No organising began before the end of 1973. A number of lads then came to me and requested that I approach the boss and arrange for us to hold a meeting in Stavanger to establish our own organisation.

We weren’t interested in joining ”Stone and Earth” [the Norwegian Union of General Workers, which was supposed to organise offshore workers in the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO)].

I went down to Dusavik and talked with Paul Reynolds about whether he would give me NOK 150 000 to bring together the whole workforce in Stavanger to discuss what kind of interest organisation we could actually contemplate. He liked the idea. Among other aspects, I mentioned that we wouldn’t be a political organisation.

We didn’t want to join the general workers. We weren’t allowed to join the Norwegian Seamen’s Union, but we were keen to win entitlement to seafarer’s tax and similar benefits. I also asked whether we could borrow Phillips’ lawyers, and it eventually became so much that Reynolds replied: ’Egil, you can’t have NOK 150 000, but I’ll arrange matters so we bring everyone together with their wives.’

This involved two sessions at Stavanger’s Atlantic Hotel. There weren’t that many of us then, so two meetings were fine. We were informed about pension arrangements, insurance, the history of Phillips and so on.

he whole management was present. We got time to ourselves, where we held discussions, elected an executive committee, the committee elected a chair, and that was me. Then we set to work. And we pursued incredibly good negotiations with Phillips.

We were able to borrow their Oslo lawyers, Gregersen, Gregersen og Gregersen, who were going to work to get us seafarer’s tax. In the meantime, while waiting for that, we wanted a compensation for what we could have earned if we were paying this tax. That was what became the offshore supplement.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Egil Berle interviewed by Kristin Øye Gjerde, 20 June 2003 (extract).

 

The first oil crisisFirst oil production from a fixed Norwegian platform
Published 27. May 2019   •   Updated 7. October 2019
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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