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– Over the industry, but much remains to be done

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– Over the industry, but much remains to be done

Today, the figures came from the Technical Calculation Committee (TBU), which show the wage development in Norway for 2023. While industry ended up with 4.8 per cent annual wage growth last year, employees in the municipalities got a 5.6 per cent increase – or more correctly 5.4 per cent, since the teachers’ strike in 2022 must be disregarded.

But even if the annual wage growth in the municipal sector was higher than the front-line profession in 2023, the fact shows that most still did not have increased purchasing power because prices grew more. The price increase (consumer price index) ended at 5.5 per cent.

– This means that most people experienced a decline in real wages, and that purchasing power is deteriorating for the third year in a row. This is a trend that needs to be reversed, and in 2024 we expect a significant increase in real wages for teachers and kindergarten teachers, says Geir Røsvoll, head of the Education Association and head of negotiations for Unio municipality.

Continuing staffing crisis

The figures show that the municipal sector ended up with a better result than the front subject last year, but Røsvoll reminds us that a swallow does not make a summer.

– There is still much to be done. If KS has now realized that they must have a more flexible approach to the frontline subject framework, so that in the future there will be better settlements for public employees, then we are on the right track. But if this was a one-off, it doesn’t help much.

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He reminds us of the many challenges that the country’s municipalities have, both in recruiting and retaining qualified personnel.

– Within education and health, the situation is precarious. There are over 17,000 employees in teaching positions without teacher training in the country’s classrooms. There is a shortage of well over 5,000 nurses. At the same time, every third place is vacant in the country’s teacher education programs. This is critical for Kommune-Norge, the biases are enormous, says Røsvoll.

Employees with up to four years of college/university education, such as nurses, kindergarten teachers and assistant professors, earn almost 200,000 less than those with equivalent education in industry.

For teachers in schools with more than four years of education, the difference to employees in industry with the same level of education is over NOK 300,000.

– These are very large amounts, and one of the reasons why many wise minds disappear from the municipal sector. This gap must be closed if we are to get well-qualified people to elect and stay in the municipalities, says Røsvoll.

If you look at accumulated wage growth over the past five years, you also see that teaching staff have lagged behind: While they have had a wage growth of 16.9 per cent, industry has had a whopping 18.4 per cent. The national accounts show that wage growth in society as a whole has been 21.3 per cent in the last five-year period. This is 4.4 per cent more than for teaching staff.

Flexible practice of the front subject

He emphasizes that the private sector uses wages as a tool to retain and recruit the necessary workforce. Then it is absolutely necessary to do the same in the public sector.

– That is why it is so important that the front subject is practiced more flexibly. One of the main goals of the frontline subject model is precisely to ensure recruitment for the entire working life!

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– Now the public sector all too often loses the battle for highly educated labor since the wages are too low and the workload is so great. It will again be a problem for both citizens and businesses in Norway – who are dependent on a well-functioning welfare state.

Settlement in line with others

Røsvoll also reminds that it is easy to get confused by the TBU figures that were presented this morning. Here it says that municipal employees collectively received a salary increase of 5.6 per cent in 2023, while those working in teaching received a whopping 6.1 per cent.

– The teachers and kindergarten teachers got a settlement last year in line with others in the municipal sector, even if at first glance it doesn’t seem that way.

– The reason is the teachers’ strike in 2022. An abnormally large overhang means that the 2023 figures look far higher for the education sector than they are. If you disregard the strike in 2022, and the subsequent overhang, the wage increase is 5.4 per cent. This applies both to those who work in teaching and to all employees in the KS tariff area, stresses the head of the Education Association.

The head of the committee for TBU, Geir Axelsen, also pointed this out several times during Friday’s press conference, and said that 0.7 per cent must be deducted from the figure showing the salary development in the teaching sector.

You can read the entire TBU report here. Note that this is a preliminary report, and figures are subject to change.

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Here you can read what Unio says about the TBU figures: “A swallow makes no summer”.

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