Adecco director resigns in scandal

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The controversy surrounding illegal labour practices at public nursing homes run by employment firm Adecco Helse keeps growing, as further shocking revelations of labour law violations in several of the companies’ operations led to the resignation of Adecco Helse director Bård Kristiansen.

Following a Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) investigation last week, which revealed that employees at Adecco Helse’s Ammerudlunden nursing home in Oslo had been working 84-hour weeks for years and slept in the basement, evidence of even more serious illegal activity has now been discovered at the Midtåsen nursing home (also in Oslo) and at Greverud in Akershus. At Greverud in particular, employees have apparently worked 100-hour weeks, with 20-hour days, for as long as 20-day stretches.

One local politician involved with Adecco’s contracts said he felt “systematically cheated” by Adecco. Calls also were going out for Norway’s football association to drop Adecco as a sponsor because of the scandal around the company.

Contracts already terminated
A comprehensive audit begun by Adecco itself of the five nursing homes it runs around Norway forced Adecco Norge CEO Anders Øwre-Johansen to admit that the conditions at Ammerudlunden and Greverud in particular would constitute a breach of their contracts with local authorities. Adecco has already lost its contract with the city of Oslo at the Ammerudlunden and Midtåsen nursing homes, and Oppegård council, which runs the home at Greverud, confirmed on Thursday morning that it planned to fire Adecco as well. Meanwhile, Adecco Helse director Bård Kristiansen admitted he had been aware of the excessive work schedules at the nursing homes for a long time, after first telling NRK he did not know about the labour violations. He has resigned as a result.

CEO Øwre-Johansen promised to “work independently” of any questions over the future of their contracts in order to “address all deviations, and continue the investigation with unabated strength.” Nevertheless, local politicians and civil servants continue to blame management for the practices at Adecco Helse-run homes, with several saying they have lost confidence in the company.

Harald Toft, the top civil servant at Oppegård local council, suggested that the company had deliberately changed their practices at Greverud in 2009. “We have no reason to believe that the conditions in the nursing home have been like this since the first contract was entered into in 2004,” Toft told news agency NTB. “But in Adecco’s new tender in autumn 2009, the price was reduced. Since then, user satisfaction has also sunk.”

Oslo council knew since 2004
The circumstances are different in Oslo. Adecco has already admitted that the labour law violations at Ammerudlunden had occurred since 2002. Further revelations, again documented by NRK, suggest that the council itself has been aware of these practices for seven years, after the death of an 80-year old patient, who fell from a second-story window, was blamed on irregular working practices.

A single employee on the night shift had responsibility for around 20 residents in different departments and on different floors of the home, and a report by the state health ombudsman suggested that this might have been to blame for the lack of observation that led to the death. The daughter of the deceased herself had been told by employees of long shifts and illegal practices, but Oslo city council’s subsequent investigation decided that nothing illegal had taken place. Although the nursing home was run by a different company in 2004, that company later merged with Adecco and the person responsible continued to be in charge at Ammerudlunden.

Last year, the governing parties in Oslo City council rejected a motion from the Red Party, supported by the Labour Party and the Socialist Left Party, calling for the introduction of thorough controls over pay and conditions in care homes run by private companies. This came after complaints brought to trade unions and the opposition parties about employees in privately run council homes being paid considerably less than the pay levels instituted by the local council for equivalent positions in directly council-run homes.

Pension law also broken since 2005
The news has become even worse for Adecco, with trade unions telling NRK that the company has been taking money out of some nurses’ wages to pay for a pension plan, but that the pension operator itself has no record of the employees being members of the plan.

Moreover, for those employees who were registered in the plan, there were discrepancies between the amount deducted from their paychecks and the amount paid into the pension pot.

Views and News from Norway/Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
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