Social dialogue is central to the Norwegian model. The social dialogue lay down the foundation for both representative and individual arrangements aimed at employee participation. Both social parties have rights and obligations, and the social dialogue is based on joint responsibility for a just and productive work life.
Social dialogue, which is taking place within thousands of workplaces, is the manifestation of the work life. Social dialogue is a main field of research at Fafo, and there are a number of intersections to other fields of research. Social dialogue is studied from various angles: institutional theory; industrial relations; power relations and democracy theory, organizational theory and labour law. We employ a wide range of research methods - including registry data and own surveys, and interviews and observation.
Research in this field is directed towards all levels: national level; company and workplace level; and also the relationship between management and the individual employee. All sectors and most industries are covered. Our research include co-operation in accordance with the Working Environment Act and the Companies Acts, the Basic Agreements and collective agreements. We are concerned with the importance of Social dialogue in terms of
- Value creation and ability to adapt and change
- Employee opportunity and security for personal development in their work, and employee influence of own work
- Trade union representatives’ power and influence at various levels
The content of the social dialogue, the specific issues that are informed, consulted and negotiated - are covered by several research fields, for more information, see Health, environment and safety in the workplace, Collective bargaining and agreements, Wage formation, Working hours and employment and European labour models.
Social dialogue and democracy
In Norway, democratic working life and workplaces is a fundamental objective. In a comparative perspective, Norwegian employees enjoy a number of schemes designed to ensure fairness and equal treatment, and opportunities for personal development and growth. How democratic is the Norwegian working life; what can employees and representatives influence on? Which schemes are practiced - and are schemes practiced according to the intentions? Which issues attract the most interest, and where is the line of conflict? To what degree is social dialogue institutionalized as a form of working in the Norwegian working life - by sector, industry and company size? These are some of the central questions that Fafo has been concerned with over the past years.
Social dialogue and value creation
The story of the emergence of the Norwegian regulatory regime is also the story of parties who co-operate, and who compromise in the best interests of the future of the company. Fafo has been concerned with the role of social dialogue in contributing to value creation and to enterprise ability to change and adapt. The research projects range from business studies of work organization and change processes to major restructuring and downsizing processes. Central in this field, is trade union representatives’’ contribution to restructuring and reorganization, through formal and informal Social dialogue.
Social dialogue and ownership
Fafo research on Social dialogue cover all sectors. We have been concerned with how schemes vary and how ownership and management affect Social dialogue. In the private sector, we have conducted several projects related to the Companies Act provision on employee representation on the board of directors. A different issue of interest is Social dialogue within corporate groups, franchises and other forms of association. Traditionally, research on the Norwegian working life has been based on the role of the social partner. However, the emergence of new norms of ownership (‘shareholders’ value’) strengthens the importance of the issue of owners' role and place in the Norwegian model.
Changed conditions for Social dialogue
Both the quality and quantity of Social dialogue vary. Fafo has closely followed the development and have surveyed the conditions for good social dialogue - both from managements’ and trade unions’ perspectives. Research concludes that trust is a fundamental prerequisite. At the same time, both partners change, new ideals for management and organizational models emerge and disappear, and new trade union representatives are recruited and trained. New technology is implemented. The labour force is changing. New norms for human relations (HR) and management roles are coupled with employees’ increased education. To Fafo, studies of challenges and opportunities for future co-operation constitute an important research area.