Official information

Guest workers get little help

Foreign workers who end up in conflicts with employers over wages and working conditions get little or no help from Norwegian society, NRK reports. New regulations are being discussed.

Presently, due to unclear distribution of responsibility and complicated organization of many small businesses that employ a foreign workforce, workers are left to fend for themselves.

Last week NRK reported on the survivors and the relatives of the victims of a fire in Gulskogen, near Drammen, and the complex problems they struggle with. One of the survivors, who jumped out of a third-story window to save his own life, had reported his Polish employer to the police because he claims he is owed large amounts of money in back pay.

When the Polish worker went to the police he was told that the police normally don’t investigate these kinds of cases, because they see it as a civil court case.

- What we can do is bring in other public departments that can possibly look into the case, a police legal counselor told him.

When the police say that they will turn the case over to other public authorities, they are thinking of the Labour Inspectorate. But the Head of Labour Inspections in Buskerud, Jan Muggerud, says there is very little that they can do:

-This area is privately regulated, which means that if you as an employee don’t get the wages you are entitled to, then you must go to the courts to get a conviction. Then the judge will establish what you are entitled to, he says.

When there is a private disagreement on wages, it could be necessary to hire lawyers and going to trial. This is a very unlikely option for a Polish worker without wages, and who does not speak Norwegian.

In March the consultation deadline for a new law on mutual responsibility expires. The law will prevent social depression and prevent the creation of a new lower class of underpaid workers in Norway.

-I cannot promise that it will become a law. But we are sending it for consultation because we believe that if people can go to employers and even furher up the chain to demand wages that are not paid out, then it will have a preventive effect, says Jan-Erik Stoestad of the Labour and Inclusiveness Department.


Rolleiv Solholm

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