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WAGE: Work, labour and greening the economy

The WAGE project seeks to examine how oil workers in Norway, Nigeria, US and Canada assess their own role in a green transformation.

Photo illustration: Colorbox

About the project

A green shift requires societies across the world to transition from high-emitting, fossil-based energy regimes to low-carbon technologies. Emissions from petroleum and the petroleum industry represent the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the global economy, and countries like Norway, Nigeria, USA and Canada have based much of their economic growth on oil and gas. The WAGE project seeks to examine how oil workers assess their own role in a green transformation.


The research project WAGE

Oil workers, long seen as champions of economic development, are framed as part of the problem in the climate debate, rather than as part of the solution. In public discourse, there is a tendency to portray the green shift as a trade-off between jobs and sustainable emission levels. Such portrayals spur resistance and resentment from organized petroleum workers. WAGE has a different point of entry. The project attempts to spark conversations around how the skills and competencies of workers in the industry and in the labour movement can be harnessed to accelerate a green shift. This entails oil workers who view themselves as relevant actors in a transition, as professionals, as union members and as representatives of these workers. In addition, the project investigates how different pathways affect solidarity within the union movement and between trade unions and environmental actors.

The project will shed light on oil workers' identity formation in the climate debate through qualitative methods, including focus groups, interviews, and document and media analysis. In particular, we will focus on how oil worker unions train their members and develop their skills, develop their strategies, and engage with counterparts and alliance partners in industrial relations and in politics more generally. We will also explore media representations of oil workers and the ‘jobs vs. environment dilemma’.

Thus far, the WAGE researcher team has conducted focus groups with industrial unions in Norway and Nigeria, covering different sectoral unions representing different forms of employment status and position in the industry (incl. community workers and artisanal refiners in the Niger Delta). The conversations have covered notions of transition, roles and role perceptions, the responsibilities and opportunities of unionized workers, as well as the relations between workers, media and climate activists. Our research tools and strategies are developed in dialogue with trade unions in the industry. Currently, we are planning a second round of focus groups in Norway, interviews with union representatives in California, a media analysis of the stimulus package from the Norwegian state to the petroleum industry, as well as a study of competence development policies in the Norwegian union movement through document analysis and interviews with union officials. Finally, we are in the process of disseminating our research through webinars, academic conferences and events hosted by petroleum unions.  

WAGE is an inter-disciplinary project, and its empirical research on oil workers informs, and are informed by, theoretical concepts and debates, including hegemony in media studies, labour agency in human geography, the concept of alienation, as well as a broad debate within social sciences on the relevance of “greening work”, “climate jobs” and “green skills” in a just transition.


The documentary project WAGESTORIES

In 2020, the WAGE project was awarded a second grant from the SAMKUL programme of the Research Council of Norway for the project WAGESTORIES. The researcher team in WAGE will collaborate with the Media Section at Oslo Metropolitan University to develop a documentary project provisionally titled “The Climate Struggle of Oil Workers”. This documentary will accompany three workers as they make sense of climate change and climate policies from their viewpoint based in the petroleum industry of the Niger Delta (Nigeria), California (US) and Rogaland (Norway). We aim to broadcast the documentary in 2022, and aim to let the production of WAGESTORIES and the qualitative research in WAGE mutually inform each other.


The project is funded by The Research Council of Norway under SAMKUL. The total grant award was for NOK 9 000 000.


OsloMet- Oslo Metropolitan University, Department of Journalism and Media Studies

York University, Department of Social Science



  • Camilla Houeland & David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier (2021). Oljearbeiderne - samfunnsbyggere eller bremseklosser?, In Marianne Nordli Hansen & Jørn Ljunggren (ed.),  Arbeiderklassen.  Cappelen Damm Akademisk.  ISBN 9788202646240.  Kap 8.  s 163 - 182
  • Maiken Bjerga Kiil & David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier (2020). Internasjonale lærdommer, In Inger Marie Hagen & Jon Olav Bjergene (ed.),  Grønne tariffavtaler.  Gyldendal Akademisk.  ISBN 9788205538900.  Kapittel 5.  s 90 - 118
  • Camilla Houeland; David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier & Frida Hambro Angell (2020). Solidarity tested: The case of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO‐Norway) and its contradictory climate change policies. Area (London 1969).  ISSN 0004-0894.
  • Camilla Houeland (2020). Contentious and institutional politics in a petro-state: Nigeria's 2012 fuel subsidy protests. The Extractive Industries and Society.  ISSN 2214-790X.
  • Andreas Ytterstad & Marte Veimo (2020). Den sprikende kraften i "det grønne skiftet".. Mediehistorisk tidsskrift.  ISSN 2464-4277.  s 125- 141

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  • David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier & Camilla Houeland (2021). Fagbevegelsen og det grønne skiftet.
  • Camilla Houeland (2021). Polarisering i klima- og industridebatten.
  • Håvard Haarstad; Camilla Houeland & Tarje Iversen Wanvik (2021). Populismens grenser.
  •  (2021). Steile fronter i klimadebatten.
  •  (2021). Tåregass i gatene.
  •  (2021). Ungdommen har fått nok.
  •  (2021). Klimaforskeren mer fagbevegelsen ta en sterkere rolle i klimakampen - Nå handler det om politisk vilje.
  • David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier & Camilla Houeland (2021). Polarisering i klimadebatten: Samtaler med tillitsvalgte i oljeindustrien.
  • Camilla Houeland (2021). No, Countries in the Global South Shouldn’t be Scrapping Fuel Subsidies. Jacobin.  ISSN 2158-2602.
  • Camilla Houeland (2021). The global and class inequalities of fossil fuel subsidy reform. Africa Is A Country (Blog).
  • Camilla Houeland (2021). We work like elephants, and eat like ants. Africa Is A Country (Blog).
  • David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier & Camilla Houeland (2021). Polarisering på norsk. Dagsavisen.  ISSN 1503-2892.
  • David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier (2020). Klimaengasjement i fagbevegelsen.
  • David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier (2020). Hvorfor er ikke lærerne i klimastreik?.
  • Camilla Houeland (2020). "Klimaheltene det ikke synges om: Oljearbeiderne".
  • Camilla Houeland (2020). Kan man se konsekvenser av imperialismen i dagens Nigeria? Tre historier om Boko Haram og terror; #Endsars og folkelige protester mot politivold og Olje-konfliktene i Nigerdeltaet..
  • Camilla Houeland (2020). Trade unions and organization in Africa: Disempowerment and counter-power.
  • Camilla Houeland (2020). Makt og avmakt i afrikansk fagbevgelse: I kriser, korona og klima.
  • Camilla Houeland (2020). #EndSARS - Hva er det og hvorfor skjer det nå? (Panelsamtale om de pågående protestene i Nigeria).
  • Camilla Houeland (2020). Norwegian oil workers' perception of media coverage of oil, work and climate change.
  • Andreas Ytterstad (2020). The rise of the Oil worker in Norwegian media, to the rescue of oil, the climate, or both?.
  • David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier (2020). Alienation, shame and shared responsibility: Role perceptions and labour agency in the petroleum industry.
  •  (2020). Nigeria’s Revolt.
  •  (2020). Afrikansk fagbevegelse kan få en viktig rolle under korona-pandemien, sier afrikaekspert.
  •  (2020). BBC og NRK skal dele sine erfaringer om klimajournalistikk på digital konferanse Arrangør Andreas Ytterstad vil skape dialog om nyoppstartede klimaredaksjoner..
  •  (2020). Nigeria feirer 60 år med uavhengighet.
  •  (2020). Bloomberg: Verdens beste børs i år er nigeriansk.
  •  (2020). Kjendiser ut mot politibrutalitet.
  •  (2020). Korona krever kutt i bensinsubsidier – en katastrofe for fattige.
  •  (2020). As the Arctic Continues its Meltdown, Economic Exploitation Quickens.
  • David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier & Camilla Houeland (2020). Oljearbeidernes dilemma. KLIMA - Et magasin om klimaforskning fra CICERO.
  • Camilla Houeland (2020). "We are workers, not heroes". Africa Is A Country (Blog).
  • Camilla Houeland (2020). Nigerias delte oljeindustri og fagbevegelsens svekkede kraft. Magasinet Industri Energi.  s 42- 43
  • David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier (2019). WAGE - Work, labour and greening the economy.
  • Camilla Houeland (2019). Når COSATU ikke lengre er lik Fagbevegelsen i Sør-Afrika.
  • David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier; Heidi Sørensen & Christine Lundberg Larsen (2019). Panelsamtale om fagforeninger og grønne skiftet.
  • Camilla Houeland (2019). Olje – ressursen der ute: Tilknytningsformer - arbeidsplass og lokalsamfunn/fellesskap.
  • Camilla Houeland (2019). Anstendig arbeid og Bærekraftsmålene.
  • Camilla Houeland (2019). Nigeriansk fagbevegelse: Punching above their weight.
  • Camilla Houeland (2019). Oljens forbannelse?.
  • Camilla Houeland (2019). Panelsamtale om klima og utvikling.
  • Camilla Houeland (2019). Faglige rettigheteer under angrep.
  • Andreas Ytterstad (2019). The Uprising of Good Sense: Climate Jobs & the Green New Deal.
  • David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier (2019). WAGE - Work, labour and greening the economy.
  • David Christoffer Jordhus-Lier; Camilla Houeland & Frida Hambro Angell (2019). Interests and perspectives on climate change among organised labour: The case of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO-NORWAY).
  • Camilla Houeland (2019). Labour-resistance against fuel subsidies reform for climate mitigation.
  •  (2019). Står frykt for å miste jobben i veien for klimaengasjement?.
  • Camilla Houeland (2019). Celebrating May Day: Trade unions as schools of democracy. Africa Is A Country (Blog).
  • Camilla Houeland (2019). Derfor slåss fattigfolk for klimaskadelige bensin-subsidier. Bistandsaktuelt.  ISSN 1501-0201.
  • Camilla Houeland (2019). Lykkeland og troen på gode jobber. Bistandsaktuelt.  ISSN 1501-0201.
  • Camilla Houeland (2019). Første mai: Om fagbevegelse og demokrati. Bistandsaktuelt.  ISSN 1501-0201.
  • Camilla Houeland (2019). "Working for Oil: Comparative Social Histories of Labor in the Global Oil Industry, T. Atabaki, E. Bini, K. Ehsani (Eds.), Palgrave Macmillan (2018).". The Extractive Industries and Society.  ISSN 2214-790X.
  • Camilla Houeland (2019). Arbeidstakerrettigheter under angrep. Bistandsaktuelt.  ISSN 1501-0201.
  • Andreas Ytterstad & Gøril Borgen Eide (2018). Climate Change Consensus and Contradictions at the Core - Norwegian Trade Union Values and Climate Change.
  • Andreas Ytterstad (2018). The hegemony of oil in the media: traces of good sense from oil workers.

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Tags: Petroleum, Work, Unions, Climate change, Transition
Published Sep. 13, 2018 10:38 AM - Last modified Feb. 17, 2021 8:57 AM