Partner Christopher Hansteen, Senior Associate Johannes Teigland, and Associate Maria Mirijanyan assisted the Union of Education Norway in its complaint to the Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) at the International Labour Organization (ILO) for violations of ILO conventions concerning the protection of freedom of association, conventions to which Norway is bound.
The background for the complaint is the teacher strike in the autumn of 2022, which was halted by a legislative decision for mandatory arbitration. The complaint asserts that the intervention in the teacher strike constitutes a violation of ILO’s core conventions on the protection of freedom of association, as the right to strike is considered a fundamental part of freedom of association.
ILO is the United Nations agency for labor and works to ensure workers’ rights worldwide. The organization has a tripartite structure, with worker, employer, and government delegates playing key roles. It is “the Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA)” at the ILO that deals with complaints against states’ authorities for violations of freedom of association.
ILO considers the right to strike as essential for effective freedom of association, and its expert bodies have established strict criteria for interfering with the right to strike. As a general rule, interference can only occur where there is a strike in “essential services in the strict sense of the term.” Furthermore, there must be a clear and immediate danger to the life, personal safety, or health of the whole or part of the population to justify intervention in a strike.
The complaint explains why the intervention in the teacher strike did not fall within the narrow criteria set by the ILO for strike interference.
According to long-standing practice by the CFA, the education sector is considered a “non-essential service.” Therefore, the clear general rule is that a strike by teachers should not be prohibited. At the time of the intervention, there was also no danger to the life, personal safety, or health of the whole or part of the population, and any inconveniences caused by the strike could potentially have been addressed with far less intrusive measures than a total ban on strikes and mandatory arbitration, such as establishing minimum services.
For now, we are waiting for a response from the Norwegian authorities.