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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


September 2018 - April 2023


  • Houeland, Camilla & Jordhus-Lier, David (2022). ‘Not my task’: Role perceptions in a green transition among shop stewards in the Norwegian petroleum industry. Journal of Industrial Relations. ISSN 0022-1856. doi: 10.1177/00221856211068500.
  • Ytterstad, Andreas & Bødker, Henrik (2022). Climate Change Journalism in Norway—Working with Frequency Around the “Green Shift”. Journalism Studies. ISSN 1461-670X. 23(11), p. 1291–1307. doi: 10.1080/1461670X.2022.2084143.
  • Ytterstad, Andreas; Houeland, Camilla & Jordhus-Lier, David (2021). Heroes of the Day After Tomorrow: “The Oil Worker” in Norwegian Climate Coverage 2017–2021. Journalism Practice. ISSN 1751-2786. 16(2-3). doi: 10.1080/17512786.2021.2002712. Full text in Research Archive
  • Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer; Houeland, Camilla & Hammerø Ellingsvåg, Tale (2021). Alienating assemblages: Working the carbonscape in times of transformation. Progress in Human Geography. ISSN 0309-1325. 46(2), p. 319–338. doi: 10.1177/03091325211018730. Full text in Research Archive
  • Ytterstad, Andreas (2021). Climate Jobs Plans: A Mobilizing Strategy in Search of Agency. In Räthzel, Nora; Stevis, Dimitris & Uzzell, David (Ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Environmental Labour Studies. Palgrave Macmillan. ISSN 978-3-030-71908-1. p. 249–270.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2021). Labour Resistance Against Fossil Fuel Subsidies Reform: Neoliberal Discourses and African Realities. In Räthzel, Nora; Stevis, Dimitris & Uzzell, David (Ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Environmental Labour Studies. Palgrave Macmillan. ISSN 978-3-030-71908-1. p. 493–516. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-71909-8_21.
  • Houeland, Camilla & Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer (2021). Oljearbeiderne - samfunnsbyggere eller bremseklosser? In Ljunggren, Jørn & Hansen, Marianne Nordli (Ed.), Arbeiderklassen. Cappelen Damm Akademisk. ISSN 9788202646240. p. 163–182.
  • Ytterstad, Andreas & Veimo, Marte (2020). Den sprikende kraften i "det grønne skiftet". . Mediehistorisk tidsskrift. ISSN 2464-4277. p. 125–141.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2020). Contentious and institutional politics in a petro-state: Nigeria's 2012 fuel subsidy protests. The Extractive Industries and Society. ISSN 2214-790X. doi: 10.1016/j.exis.2020.05.010. Full text in Research Archive
  • Houeland, Camilla; Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer & Angell, Frida Hambro (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. 3, p. 413–421. doi: 10.1111/area.12608.
  • Kiil, Maiken Bjerga & Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer (2020). Internasjonale lærdommer. In Hagen, Inger Marie & Bjergene, Jon Olav (Ed.), Grønne tariffavtaler. Gyldendal Akademisk. ISSN 9788205538900. p. 90–118.

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  • Ytterstad, Andreas & Bødker, Henrik (2022). Workshop and panel on how the green shift has shaped Norwegian climate journalism.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2022). «Ikke min oppgave» Rolleforståelse i det grønne skiftet sett fra tillitsvalgte i oljeindustrien.
  • Ytterstad, Andreas (2022). Ingen flere tapte muligheter - felles kronikk med 14 organisasjoner. Dagsavisen. ISSN 1503-2892.
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  • Houeland, Camilla (2022). Labour Resistance Against Fossil Fuel Subsidies Reform: Neoliberal Discourses and African Realities.
  • Houeland, Camilla & Ytterstad, Andreas (2022). Geografiske dilemma i en grønn omstilling: Nye sosiale kontrakter og solidaritetsbånd?
  • Houeland, Camilla (2022). Polarisering i klima- og oljedebatten​, og tillitsvalgtes rolle i det grønne skiftet.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2022). Contentious and institutional politics in a petro-state: Nigeria's 2012 fuel subsidy protests.
  • Ytterstad, Andreas (2022). The Long and Winding Road - Norwegian Unions and Green Transition.
  • Ytterstad, Andreas (2022). "Talking union, talking climate: oil workers from Nigeria/Norway/USA" - Discussion related to launch of excerpt of TV documentary. [Internet]. OsloMet zoom.
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  • Ytterstad, Andreas (2022). "Skape jobber, kutte utslipp" - Kan vi bli enige om en vitenskapelig tilnærming til klimajobber?
  • Houeland, Camilla & Jordhus-Lier, David (2022). De vil vise hvem som rammes dersom Norge skal tappe den siste oljen. Uniforum. ISSN 1891-5825.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2022). Olje, arbeid og klima. Norsk Oljemuseum årbok. ISSN 0803-3692.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2022). PLENUM 1 Veien rett fram: Hvordan går vi sammen for en rettferdig omstilling?
  • Ytterstad, Andreas (2022). Strategic orientation.
  • Ytterstad, Andreas (2022). Taktikk og strategi i klimakampen. [Internet]. Plenar på globaliseringskonferansen som ble filmet.
  • Jordhus-Lier, David (2022). Structuring a conversation across space, time and political distance.
  • Jordhus-Lier, David & Houeland, Camilla (2022). Polariseringen har minsket: Flere oljearbeidere vil ha klimabevegelsen med på laget. [Newspaper]. Uniforum.
  • Jordhus-Lier, David (2021). Polarisering i klimadebatten.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2021). Polarisering i klima- og oljedebatten .
  • Houeland, Camilla (2021). Comment and panel to keynote "There is no 'I' in individual: the need to connect personal, collective and systemic climate action" Keynote speaker: Stuart Capstick Commentator: Camilla Houeland Moderator: Shayan Shokrgozar.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2021). Panel discussion on documentary film: Dying For Gold.
  • Balsvik, Eivind & Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer (2021). «Samfunnsgeografi: Oljearbeiderne og det grønne skiftet. Fjerde episode av klima-podkasten til SVEXFAC»- .
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  • Jordhus-Lier, David (2021). Tillitsvalgtrollen i det grønne skiftet.
  • Ytterstad, Andreas & Salvesen, Ingerid (2021). Rett fram episode 1: Hva betyr egentlig rettferdig omstilling? [Radio]. Broen til framtiden podcast.
  • Ytterstad, Andreas (2021). Rett fram episode 2: Hva gjør vi med olja? [Radio]. Broen til framtiden podcast.
  • Jordhus-Lier, David (2021). Klimaløsninger og handlingsalternativer i arbeidslivet.
  • Ytterstad, Andreas & Sjåfjell, Beate (2021). Verden må tåle den norske regjeringens løsninger. Forskerforum. ISSN 0800-1715. 43(8), p. 40–41.
  • Ytterstad, Andreas (2021). Dette tenker oljearbeiderne selv om det grønne skiftet. [Internet]. OsloMet forskningsnyheter.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2021). Polarisering i klimadebatten.
  • Jordhus-Lier, David (2021). Owes kamp for oljen. [Internet].
  • Ytterstad, Andreas & Salvesen, Ingerid (2021). Rett Fram episode 4: Hvordan ser rettferdighet ut hvis du skal tenke på hele verden? [Radio]. Broen til framtiden podcast episode 4.
  • Ytterstad, Andreas & Salvesen, Ingerid (2021). Rett Fram episode 3: Kan de som vil bruke og de som vil verne naturen bli med på samme lag? [Radio]. Broen til framtiden podcast.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2021). Afrika: Hva med framtida?
  • Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer & Houeland, Camilla (2021). Fagbevegelsen og det grønne skiftet .
  • Houeland, Camilla (2021). We work like elephants, and eat like ants. Africa Is A Country (Blog).
  • Houeland, Camilla (2021). The global and class inequalities of fossil fuel subsidy reform. Africa Is A Country (Blog).
  • Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer & Houeland, Camilla (2021). Polarisering på norsk. Dagsavisen. ISSN 1503-2892.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2021). No, Countries in the Global South Shouldn’t be Scrapping Fuel Subsidies. Jacobin. ISSN 2158-2602.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2021). Polarisering i klima- og industridebatten.
  • Haarstad, Håvard; Houeland, Camilla & Wanvik, Tarje Iversen (2021). Populismens grenser .
  • Houeland, Camilla (2021). Tåregass i gatene. [Newspaper]. Klassekampen.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2021). Ungdommen har fått nok. [Newspaper]. Klassekampen.
  • Houeland, Camilla & Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer (2021). Steile fronter i klimadebatten. [Business/trade/industry journal]. lo-aktuelt.
  • Jordhus-Lier, David (2021). Det grønne skiftet: – Økonomi blir en større utfordring enn sysselsetting. [Internet]. FriFagbevegelse.
  • Houeland, Camilla; Jordhus-Lier, David; Wanvik, Tarje Iversen & Haarstad, Håvard (2020). A politics of disassembly or a politics of reconnection?  A conversation about perspectives.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2020). Bloomberg: Verdens beste børs i år er nigeriansk. [Newspaper]. E24.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2020). "Klimaheltene det ikke synges om: Oljearbeiderne".
  • Houeland, Camilla (2020). #EndSARS - Hva er det og hvorfor skjer det nå? (Panelsamtale om de pågående protestene i Nigeria).
  • Houeland, Camilla (2020). Korona krever kutt i bensinsubsidier – en katastrofe for fattige. [Business/trade/industry journal]. Apollon.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2020). Nigerias delte oljeindustri og fagbevegelsens svekkede kraft. Magasinet Industri Energi. p. 42–43.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2020). Makt og avmakt i afrikansk fagbevgelse: I kriser, korona og klima.
  • Houeland, Camilla (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. .
  • Jordhus-Lier, David (2020). Debatt i P2: Klarer Norge å finne en felles vei ut av oljealderen, eller er det for steile fronter mellom klimaungdom og industriarbeiderne? . [Radio]. NRK Radio .
  • Houeland, Camilla (2020). Nigeria’s Revolt.
  • Ytterstad, Andreas (2020). As the Arctic Continues its Meltdown, Economic Exploitation Quickens. [Business/trade/industry journal]. Discover Magazine.
  • Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer (2020). Alienation, shame and shared responsibility: Role perceptions and labour agency in the petroleum industry .
  • Houeland, Camilla (2020). Afrikansk fagbevegelse kan få en viktig rolle under korona-pandemien, sier afrikaekspert. [Business/trade/industry journal]. Frifagbevegelse.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2020). Norwegian oil workers' perception of media coverage of oil, work and climate change.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2020). Kjendiser ut mot politibrutalitet. [Newspaper]. VG.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2020). Nigeria feirer 60 år med uavhengighet. [TV]. NRK, Dagsnytt18.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2020). Trade unions and organization in Africa: Disempowerment and counter-power.
  • Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer (2020). Hvorfor er ikke lærerne i klimastreik?
  • Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer (2020). Klimaengasjement i fagbevegelsen.
  • Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer & Houeland, Camilla (2020). Oljearbeidernes dilemma. KLIMA - Et magasin om klimaforskning fra CICERO.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2020). "We are workers, not heroes". Africa Is A Country (Blog).
  • Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer; Sørensen, Heidi & Larsen, Christine Lundberg (2019). Panelsamtale om fagforeninger og grønne skiftet .
  • Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer (2019). WAGE - Work, labour and greening the economy.
  • Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer (2019). Står frykt for å miste jobben i veien for klimaengasjement? [Internet].
  • Houeland, Camilla (2019). Faglige rettigheteer under angrep.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2019). Panelsamtale om klima og utvikling .
  • Houeland, Camilla (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.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2019). Olje – ressursen der ute: Tilknytningsformer - arbeidsplass og lokalsamfunn/fellesskap .
  • Houeland, Camilla (2019). Oljens forbannelse?
  • Houeland, Camilla (2019). Nigeriansk fagbevegelse: Punching above their weight.
  • Houeland, Camilla (2019). Celebrating May Day: Trade unions as schools of democracy. Africa Is A Country (Blog).
  • Houeland, Camilla (2019). Anstendig arbeid og Bærekraftsmålene.
  • Jordhus-Lier, David Christoffer & Houeland, Camilla (2021). Polarisering i klimadebatten: Samtaler med tillitsvalgte i oljeindustrien. Manifest.

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Tags: Petroleum, Work, Unions, Climate change, Transition
Published Sep. 13, 2018 10:38 AM - Last modified Apr. 19, 2022 1:45 PM