Posten denies its truckers are ‘slaves’

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Norway’s postal service Posten has been the target of lots of criticism lately, as it continues to cut back on mail delivery and close post offices in a bid to cut costs. Now it’s been accused of treating drivers for the Slovakian subsidiary of its trucking company Bring like slaves, but Posten claims that’s not true.

Some drivers working for the Norwegian postal service’s Slovakian-based Bring Trucking feel they’re subjected to “modern slavery.” PHOTO: Bring Trucking

A Romanian driver showed the BBC (external link to BBC’s report) this week how he has to prepare his meals, wash and sleep in his Bring truck, sometimes for four months at a time. His told the BBC that his monthly salary of around EUR 477 (less than NOK 5,000 a month) means he can’t afford to sleep anywhere else. He described his working conditions as being “like modern slavery.’

As an employee of Bring’s Slovakian subsidiary Bring Trucking, he’s paid in accordance with Slovakian pay scales, even though he never works in the low-cost country. He most recently has been delivering furniture for IKEA around Western Europe, and told the BBC that the EUR 40 he receives to cover lodging and expenses doesn’t go far in countries like Denmark. A Danish driver for Bring, meanwhile, can be paid more than four times his Romanian colleague working for the Slovakian unit.

‘Normal’ to live in their trucks
IKEA, which pays Bring for its delivery services, claimed it was “saddened” to hear the testimonials of the low-paid drivers, who work in Western Europe but are paid low Eastern European wages through an apparent loophole in the law. John Eckhoff, spokesman for Bring’s Norwegian state-controlled owner Posten, claimed Bring was operating legally and that it’s “normal” for drivers in long-haul international transport to live in their trucks.

“But we organize and pay for their transport when they want to return home,” Eckhoff told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday. He said it was incorrect that the drivers are forced to live in their trucks for months. He said they have access to facilities all over Europe that offer kitchens, exercise facilities, toilets and beds.

Eckhoff said Posten was taking the accusations seriously, but claimed its Bring unit paid higher wages on average than other trucking companies. He told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that Bring had given its drivers 15 percent pay raises last year. Bring’s Slovakian operation, established in 2006, has around 500 drivers and 330 trucks driving all over Europe. Eckhoff confirmed that most of the drivers live in Romania, Slovakia and Serbia and are paid in accordance with pay levels in Slovakia.

Asked why Posten opted to base its operations in Slovakia, Eckhoff told DN the company “had contacts in the country who gave us good terms for establishing there. At the same time, it has to do with overall cost levels and operating from a  location in central Europe.” He claimed Bring’s operation was “normal for companies operating within international transport.”

EU expansion worsened working conditions
Labour union officials contend truckers’ pay and working conditions have worsened since the EU expanded into Eastern Europe. Lars Johnsen of the Norwegian transport workers federation (Norsk Transportarbeiderforbund) said he wasn’t surprised by the BBC report but expected Bring Trucking to be in compliance with the law.

Eckhoff insists it is. “As a state-owned company it’s natural that the media and the authorities follow what we do,” Eckhoff told NRK. “As of now we have no reason to believe that we’re violating any of our high standards, but we’ll examine this situation more closely.” Two Members of Parliament for the Labour and Center parties were already demanding that on Thursday, and that Posten/Bring clarifies working conditions for its drivers in Europe.

“If it’s correct that their working conditions are such (as described in the BBC report), that’s completely unacceptable for a wholly owned state company,” Eirik Sivertsen, Labour’s spokesman on transport issues, told DN. Berglund

  • Roy Everson

    The man’s wife and chlldren could be sold to other slaveowners. He faces whippings at the whim of his overseers. He cannot quit his job, he cannot vote and has no other civil rights, and could be sold to a farmer who wants him to plant beets. If none of this is true then there is no sense where the word “slave” applies.. But if this slangy definition takes hold then it becomes harder for modern humans to remember previous examples of slavery. Modern slavery exists, but not where you get regular paychecks at the same standard as your fellow citizens.

    It is disrespectful to the the millions of humans who have suffered slavery throughout history — and those mostly invisible victims of today — when the language becomes corrupted and we lose the ability to clearly label these crimes. I don’t defend Bring or Posten and I don’t ascribe motives to everyone who misuses words, but the effective result resembles that of Holocaust denial: forgetting.

    • inquisitor

      Checking the many definitions of the word slavery, it is clear that it was accurately used in this instance. There was no corruption of the language at the expense of those who suffer human bondage as you allege.
      It was just simply not used as the more known, common and severe historical use of the word, but in a lesser used and more specific sense related to modern industry and working conditions, particularly regarding discrimination due to globalism, outsourcing and the first world corporations parasitizing off the second and third world countries.

      4. A condition of hard work and subjection: wage slavery.

      4. (Industrial Relations & HR Terms) work done in harsh conditions for low pay
      A condition of having to work very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation.

      As far as holocaust denial. While the holocaust was real and there are those who mistakenly deny it entirely outright, there is a further injustice to be noticed that the certain claims are beginning to be walked back , such as those of lampshades made out of jew skin and soap made out of fat to perpetuate what is referred to as the holocaust industry.

      Written by a Jew who had relatives die in the concentration camps…