Go back

OsloMet and HVL agree corona bonus in wake of criticism

Two institutions pay out big to public staff after union alarm

Oslo Metropolitan University and the University College of Western Norway (HVL) will pay bonuses this year to staff for extra work undertaken to deal with the coronavirus pandemic—following terse negotiations with academic unions.

OsloMet, unions and staff representatives agreed this week that all employees with a fixed salary who were employed as of 1 September this year would receive a one-off salary supplement of 10,000 Norwegian kroner (€934) before tax. Rector Curt Rice, who first proposed the idea to give all employees a bonus for their work during the corona pandemic, praised the unions for their input during the negotiations.

“I am glad that the parties agreed on this solution,” he said in a statement on the OsloMet website. “All employees have been in a demanding work situation and had to adapt to new practices and constantly deal with strict infection control rules. The supplement is intended as a recognition of the good efforts and willingness of all employees.”

The payment of the supplement will be included in the December salary.

The University College of Western Norway has already made a similar decision and set aside NOK7 million as a coronavirus “bonus”. Rector Berit Rokne proposed that the money be part of a permanent salary increase for all employees in the college’s year-end salary settlement.

OsloMet’s initial proposal to pay a bonus for dealing with the coronavirus drew sharp criticism from some quarters, as it was aimed at professors and lectures in permanent jobs. “The academic nobility, who have escaped easily from the most bone-chilling corona times, grab 10,000 kroner,” editor-in-chief of news outlet Bergensavisen, Sigvald Sveinbjørnsson, wrote on Facebook.

Sveinbjørnsson took aim at the Forskerforbundet, the Norwegian Research Association, telling Norwegian newspaper Nettavisen, that their members had “come out very well” from this situation. He said that OsloMet’s bonus plan was helping those who were already well off, and neglected academic staff who could not work from home.

Tore Olsen Pran, a former Labour politician from Kjeller who is now city director in Old Oslo, also rebuked OsloMet on Facebook. “Government employees with secure jobs receive bonuses, while thousands of employees in vulnerable industries are laid off and very many lose their jobs,” he wrote.

OsloMet and HVL are likely to be just the first of several institutions to pay their staff extra for working through the coronavirus crisis. According to the Universitetsavisa website, the Forskerforbundet’s representative at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology—Lisbeth Aune—wants employees there to also receive an “appreciation” for the extra work they undertook during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The employees have made an extraordinary effort over a long period,” Aune said. “They have made their homes and private equipment available, turned around and worked very hard in an unpredictable time to solve the challenges.”

Norway’s universities shut down between March and June to reduce the spread of the virus.