Never rely on Norwegian laws to protect you from unscupulous employers.

Posted: October 18, 2011 in employment, Norwegian culture

Over the last year, I have been one of many former employees who worked for an Asylum Mottak operator called Link AS who are trying to get money owed to us for unpaid loading (tillegg) and the like.

Most of us worked a 7 day roster, odd hours and on public holidays as well.  We were paid a set monthly wage, regardless of if any of these days fell within the pay period.  The union was informed and the process of trying to rectify this began.

Myself, I worked a night guard, 7 days on, 12 hour shifts starting at 10 pm and then 7 days off.  This contravened the employment laws as to the maximum hours allowed in a week.  The bsiness had no dispensation from these laws, thus it was operating illegally.

After one of the Mottaks was burnt down by the asylum seekers (our daily manager and Lier mottak’s was the same person) and media attention was focussed on the operator, we saw that some demands for unpaid overtime and public holiday loading were met, with the excuse that it was the accountants fault.

The ensuing media coverage exposed employees had been orking hundreds of hours overtime without the correct remuneration, for a long time and despite being informed, had ignored the issues and not heeded the warnings from frontline staff in regard to the ‘mood’ within the mottak prior to the events that resulted in its closure.

I even heard of one situation where the mottak leader, when being confronted by the asylum seekers about the lack of food provided threw grass at them and told them to eat that.  Bit of a worry?

At the time I was the union rep (tillitsvalgt) and made enquiries to the UDI and the arbeidstilsynet (industrial relations tribunal) to try and obtain some clarification as to what the actual rights were, due to many different opinions and a lot of misinformation and guesswork by some of the employees.

It is important to understand how this particular employer operates and their attitude towards immigrants in Norway, especially given the important socual responsibility they have been imbued with by the Norwegian government in regards to integration and the fate of Asylum seekers in Norway.

Link As has an operational policy of employing Scandinavians, predominately Norwegians into the management roles within its Asylum Mottaks, the more operational roles, that is the shit jobs are filled mostly by foreigners, many of which are former Asylum seekers.

They have a standard work contract with a set yearly wage, that makes no mention of overtime, public holidays, weekends or the like.  It also does not mention anywhere that the figure is all inclusive of all loading and extras that are incurred in accordance with the industrial relations laws in Norway.

They operate under a tarriff, much the same as most employers in Norway, yet seem to have a very interesting and self serving perspective in their interpretation of how th tariff operates.  They have recently changed to another tariff which will allow them to pay people even less and greatly reduces employees rights in regards to working public holidays, nights and weekends.  This in a country where free time and family time are deemed sacrosanct.

It would appear that it is only Norwegians that are deemed to have the need for free time or family time.

After I made some enquiries, a meeting with 2 of the senior management was called to try and work out what was going on and what could be done to rectify the situation and restore some trust and harmony between employees and management.

During this meeting, an interesting thing happened that confirmed many of my suspicions about immigrants standing in the scheme of things in Norwegian society.

I am white, speak Norwegian and this can sometimes lead Norwegians, in the heat of a discussion to forget I am a foreigner.

I was informed by management, and an overtly aggressive economic manager (who had the appearance of a dishevelled bum) that the reason that the wage levels were so low and the difference between Norwegians pay and foreigners pay for the same job and level of responsibility was that foreigners were incompetent and did not deserve to be paid the same as Norwegians.  A rather apartheid approach I thought.

the next thing that happened suprised and disturbed me even more.  The operational manager went on to ask about private correspondence that I had sent to the UDI in regards to seeking clarification about wage levels.  That the Government department had contacted and given my details to the management of a private operator in what I would rightly consider to be a matter that was confidential was an eye opener and confirmed many of my suspicions in regards to collusion and a ‘cover up’ by a department that has been exposed to be ineffective and riddled with incompetence.

This was the last straw for me and I resigned my position, working for elitist scum like this is not worth it and bugger me if I will boost their bottom line through my efforts.

Anyway, eventually the union gave up and took the matter to the courts where as I understand a judgement was made that the union and the operator, via the NHO would negotiate and make restitution.   Oddly, the operator and NHo have been able to blankly refuse to meet for any negotiations without any fear of repercussions or punitive damages which makes me suspect collusion and perhaps even corruption emenating from a government department.

Remember, in Norway, it is the government that is the biggest offender, via private operators, like Adecco, that have repeatedly been found to be breaking the laws in regard to pay and conditions.

So now, over a year later, we are still waiting to hear if we will get the money that is owed to us for loading.  Some have filed for over 100 000,- NOK in money owed.

As usual, the company is crying foul and playing the poor card, saying they don’t have the financial resources, oddly, they seem to have plenty for management.

So, the point here is that the Norwegian arbeidslov, or industrial relations law, will  not protect you from unscrupulous employers.  The actions of profiteering scumbags will be condoned and thus, encouraged by a system that will not act until media coverage is so damning and frontpage news.  It is only through publicly shaming that these types of employers will then take some steps to rectify the situation, but only temporarily.

As a foreigner in Norway, be aware, be careful, learn your rights and make your decisions wisely.

For what it is worth, I have secured new employment , via manpower, who I have found to be very above board and on the level, helpful and more interested in what I can do, not where I was born.

My new full-time employer is great, the people I work with inclusive and again, they don’t give a shit where I come from, just what I can do and that I do my job.

It is worth the hard work to search, and look for better if you feel you have been treated unfairly or are subject to discrimination.

We only live once…except for reincarnationists…


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