Last week at the National Lift Industry Conference in Hobart, ETU and CEPU delegates heard from Markus Hansen, the President of the Norwegian Elevator Constructors Union, about a union-busting attempt by the largest elevator company in Norway, Schindler.
The conflict began when the company, Schindler, made changes to the software that all elevator constructors use every day on their iPad. Schindler ignored a binding local agreement with the Union that says the company must negotiate these types of changes before implementing them. The employees retaliated by continuing to use paper sheets, and then Schindler decided not to pay them their salary.
In July, both parties were convicted in the labour court for their actions, but it didn’t change anything and the conflict escalated. In September the supervisors at Schindler showed their support to the union and employees, writing a lengthy letter to management. A few weeks later the shop steward Alexander Jordnes, who is the union’s Vice President was sacked. In response the elevator constructors stopped work for two days. The union resolved to stand together stronger than before and received moral support from other companies such as Otis, Kone and Thyssenkrupp, and international unions like the ETU.
After applying more and more pressure on Schindler through many employees and customers deserting them, the company finally backed down. In February Schindler withdrew all threats and dismissals, reinstating Alexander to his role and implementing improved working conditions.
Throughout the whole process Alexander acted as the shop steward and only available contact even after his unfair dismissal, forcing Schindler to negotiate with him.
The union overcame many challenges to succeed during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have strengthened their union by adapting to new platforms such as Zoom and Teams to meet more regularly and become more agile, changing tactics throughout the campaign. Despite many gatherings happening all over Norway, there was also no incident of the virus being spread.
Markus had a message to those unions who supported their fight:
“Thank you again for your solidarity messages, stay safe, and hopefully Schindler will never again attempt union busting!”
Well done to Markus, Alexander and our comrades in Norway!