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Store Norske halfway through cuts

Gruve 7, one of three coal mines owned by Store Norske. FOTO: Eirik Palm

Store Norske halfway through cuts

About 40 permanent employees must meet for discussions.

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13.12.2014 kl 14:45

The notices were sent out Wednesday and Thursday. During the week following, the management at Store Norske will have the so-called 15.1 meetings with the relevant staff. There are part of the downsizing process at the coal company, and come after discussions between management and the union Monday and Tuesday where they agreed on terms for the announced layoffs.

Finding 40
During the past week, the first 30 workers were notified they are redundant. They are mainly personnel on short-term contracts as a result of problems with entry work at Lunckefjell. In addition, it had been determined about 30 employees have one-year contracts, are retiring or are choosing to resign. Therefore about 40 cuts remain to the reach the company's target of eliminating at least 100 of its 340 jobs.

The individual meetings with permanent employees are starting at the end of this week.
"Those who are affected will be notified and there are around 40 people among the permanent employees who are being brought in to these meetings," said Aleksander Askeland, Store Norske's acting human resources manager.

These meetings are part of the formal requirements of a workforce reduction process and are in themselves not a dismissal, but meetings where both the employer and the employees submit their assessments. The final conclusion about each employee is reached following the meeting.

"The company has said that we have to have the expertise that we are sure that we need for future work," Askeland said.

Not commenting
Officials are also expressing concern about ensuring the rules are complied with and Arild Olsen, the union steward for the company's employees, said the meetings were good even though all parties had to make concessions before the guidelines were reached. The mining union originally wanted seniority to count most heavily in downsizing. Company leaders disagreed.

"Now the union has done what we can," Olsen said. "It is not completely noise-free, but it is what we believe will generate the least noise and ensure operations."

Olsen and Askeland both declined to comment on the distribution of redundancies in various departments, but sources have informed Svalbardposten the distributions by percentage are relatively similar.

"We advise our members that they bring with them a person they trust, and any shop stewards, to these meetings," Olsen said. "That is to ensure that it is not done with any procedural error, while at the same time it is nice to have someone who knows the law. It's hard to be your own lawyer."

Considering doing things themselves
During January, Store Norske is scheduled to meet with the agency responsible for companies owned by the Norwegian government and the bank to discuss refinancing.

"We are working hard and our ambition is to stay on schedule," said Store Norske Executive Chairwoman Annette Malm Justad, whose goal is presenting a sustainable operating plan for the coal company that is 99.9 percent government owned.

The work also includes turning over every stone in searching for cost savings. Among such possibilities are discussions with subcontractors, with Askeland stating the company is considering if there are tasks Store Norske employees can perform at Svea instead of subcontractors.

"A sense of understanding is present and that is entirely natural," Askeland said when asked about discussions with the unions."We have been faced with lengthy discussions with the unions to be completely sure that we come to a common understanding of the process we will use."

Although Askeland started working at Store Norske in February of 2012, he has already experienced a staffing reduction. It happened in 2013, when about 50 positions at Store Norske disappeared.


Translated by Mark Sabbatini


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