Adecco scandal widens to hospitals and slaughterhouses

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Allegations of labour law violations committed by the human resources (HR) and recruitment firm Adecco have continued to multiply, with a range of operations across various sectors now being investigated, and the company being reported to the police.

Norway’s employment law regulator, Arbeidstilsynet, has notified local police regarding revelations of illegal practices in two nursing homes run by the company in Oslo. The regulators also published new accusations pertaining to a chicken slaughterhouse run by the company Norsk Kylling in Støren, Sør-Trondelag, where some employees were said to work up to 77-hour weeks.

A quarter of the slaughterhouse’s staff are employed through Adecco, and both Norsk Kylling and Adecco would be liable if reported by the regulators to the police – something which officials are now considering. A representative of Arbeidstilsynet, Ingar Haarstad, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that “there are quite serious violations under the Working Environment Act regarding weekly working times, and there are violations in regulations connected with overtime.” Haarstad stated that he and his colleagues “think the violations are so great that we are strongly considering reporting both companies,” adding that the regulator had yet to get a response from Adecco regarding its directions.

Overtime violations for Adecco nurses
The steady drip of new allegations of Adecco’s exploitation of workers, many of them foreigners in Norway, did not stop there. Akershus hospital (Ahus) in Oslo has admitted that, in 22 cases, some nurses employed through private contractors had worked more than 200 hours of overtime during 2010, with the majority of agency staff supplied by Adecco. The firm has an agreement with Norwegian health authorities to be the first port of call for the recruitment of temporary nurses, but health ministry officials have already confirmed that this arrangement could be cancelled as a result of the latest discoveries.

The hospital’s HR director, Jan Inge Pettersen, told NRK that “the agency has the formal employment responsibility, and has the responsibility to make sure that the law is not broken.” However, the chief county medical officer is considering an investigation into the events at Ahus, expressing surprise that hospital management did not know realize how much people were working.

‘Social dumping’
Political pressure is growing on central and local government as a result of the Adecco scandal. The leader of the Norwegian confederation of trade unions, Roar Flåthen, has demanded that the government “get a grip on use of temporary workers” by local health authorities, calling for a further reduction in the use of agency staff. Norwegian hospitals alone paid NOK 487 million to private agencies last year, of which NOK 93 million went to Adecco. The local government association is also looking into whether payments to private agencies contribute to “social dumping” – the exploitation of workers from another country or region, generally elsewhere in Europe, where working conditions and wage levels are lower than those usually found in Norway.

The Labour Party’s labour minister, Hanne Bjurstrøm, promised to introduce new regulations to punish local authorities who did not ensure workers’ rights were enforced in privately run operations. Bjurstrøm told newspaper Dagsavisen, said that, following the Adecco revelations, she “fears we will find even more sorts of things in Norwegian working life concerning poor pay and working conditions.”

Views and News from Norway/Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
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