Pending collective complaints against Norway based on the Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter
SMB Norge v. Norway - Complaint No. 198/2021
FFFS v. Norway - Complaint No. 209/2022
Two collective complaints have been submitted to the European Committee of Social Rights, one on 26 March 2021 on behalf of SMB Norge (The Norwegian Business Association), a business and employers' organization for small and medium sized businesses in Norway, and one on 1 April 2022 on behalf of FFFS, the joint union for sailors.
Both complaints have been brought on the basis of Article 24 of the European Social Charter, which provides for the right to protection in cases of termination of employment. Article 24(b) specifies the right to be heard by an impartial body. The text reads as follows:
“[…] To this end the Parties undertake to ensure that a worker who considers that his employment has been terminated without a valid reason shall have the right to appeal to an impartial body".
The issue that led to the complaint is related to the ‘lay judge’ system in Norway. SMB Norge and FFFS allege that the current system in Norway - when it comes to matters related to employment, such as termination and dismissal - in which the parties nominate and decide on which lay judges will sit on the matter is a breach of Article 24 and its requirement that an "impartial body," i.e. impartial courts, deal with employment matters. According to the complainants, this opens up for undue influence on the lay judges, thereby weakening the independence of the court.
European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) observations:
In availing itself of the opportunity provided in the Collective Complaints Procedure Protocol (CCPP - Article 7§2) the ETUC submitted its observations on the complaint.
The ETUC considers the complaint to be manifestly ill-founded due to a lack of coherence in its argumentation and a lack of evidence to support its claim.
The ETUC furthermore believes that there are manifest grounds for justifications of the Norwegian lay judges’ system.
The ETUC therefore suggests that the complaint be rejected.
To access the full draft of the complaint as well as further information, please visit the Council of Europe's website here.