A pay dispute involving around 7000 workers in Norway’s key offshore sector has been referred to state-led mediation after the breakdown of talks this week between unions and employers.

It follows the failure to reach agreement after two days of negotiations over wages and working conditions for workers with operators, drillers and catering firms between employer body Norwegian Oil & Gas (Norog) and the Industri Energi (IE), Safe and Lederne unions.

These include employees at major operators Equinor, ConocoPhillips, Lundin Energy, Aker BP and Wintershall Dea, as well as drilling contractor KCA Deutag and caterers such as Sodexo.

“Pursuing these negotiations has been very demanding because the latitude available this year is extremely limited,” Norog lead negotiator Jan Hodneland said.

IE deputy leader Lill-Heidi Bakkerud, whose union represents about 4300 offshore workers, said in a statement that employers “have shown no willingness to meet both technical and economic demands”.

Strike threat

A date for renewed negotiations with a state-appointed mediator has yet to be determined, with the risk of strike action if these talks fail.

This is the first in a series of four collective pay agreements to be discussed this autumn covering the country’s oil and gas industry, with talks to take place later this month for onshore workers with operators and oilfield service employees, and next month for workers at supply bases.

The negotiations originally due to take place in April this year but were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

An overall settlement for Norwegian industries exposed to foreign competition, which was reached last month following mediation talks, entails annual pay growth of 1.7% for 2020 and will form the basis for further discussions in the oil and gas sector.

A possible strike involving workers at Norway contractors was averted last month after a settlement was reached at mediation.