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Oslomet researchers win Covid-19 overtime pay


But coronavirus bonus proposal still up in the air amid dispute with union

Leaders at Oslo Metropolitan University have caved in to demands from staff arguing that they should be paid overtime for work triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

But the win leaves plans to award a coronavirus bonus worth NOK10,000 (€900) to researchers and academics up in the air.

The university said on 28 October that it would pay hourly rates to lecturers and researchers who took on additional tasks during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Foskerforum news website. Oslomet has created a budget of around NOK3 million (€242,000) for this, according to the website, which is owned by the researcher union Forskerforbundet.

The university has been embroiled in a row over payments to staff who have been taking on additional tasks due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Curt Rice, the rector of Oslomet, announced on 23 October that all staff at the university would receive a bonus of NOK10,000 at a total cost of around NOK20 million. This was supposed to be in recognition of their efforts to switch to online teaching and examinations after Norway’s universities closed in March during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I want to give a flat supplement to everyone,” Rice said at the time. “The most important thing for me is to recognise the extraordinary effort.”

But the Forskerforbundet said that this proposal was unfair, as it would not distinguish between staff who had worked extra hours and those who did not.

“We would rather not have it this way, because it undermines the determination of those prepared to work overtime,” Erik Dahlgren, a finance spokesman for the Forskerforbundet, told Foskerforum. “I am provoked and really angry.”

The Forskerforbundet worked with Oslomet’s human resources department to find out a solution, which would involve extra payments to staff who took on additional tasks. “If they have worked overtime, then they should get paid for it in the same way as administrative employees,” said the union via Foskerforum.

“These were tasks that the employer instructed the employees to take on,” said Dahlgren. He urged researchers at the university to write down hours they had worked and make note of any extra time.

Meanwhile, the Oslomet board is set to meet and discuss what will happen to Rice’s initial proposal of a flat fee bonus, and whether this should be cancelled in view of the overtime payments.

Rice has previous said that paying both a flat bonus to all staff and individual payments would “not be right”, Foskerforum reported.