Employment agency Adecco Norge AS, caught in an ever-growing scandal over illegal labour practices, now has its entire branch against it as the firm continues to lose contracts. Top management at Adecco’s parent firm in Switzerland claims that those responsible will be fired and unpaid overtime compensation claims will be met.
Adecco has admitted breaking employment law regarding working hours, conditions and, in some cases, pension contributions. As a result it has lost contracts with nursing homes in Oslo and other local authorities, as well as being reported to the police.
This week large supermarket chain Coop said it also would stop using Adecco services, while local authorities across the country and the Norwegian Parliament itself have begun thorough reviews of the company within their jurisdictions.
Adecco has been accused of paying wages below accepted tariff levels, leaving workers with far less than they should have received. Newspaper Dagsavisen reported that much of the profits of Adecco subsidiaries in Norway, including Adecco Helse that ran the nursing homes, are sent off to the firm’s Swiss parent.
Its chief executive, Patrick De Maeseneire, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday that no employees in Norway will be protected from the scandal, if they knew about the labour violations. He claimed top managers were unaware of the illegal working conditions. Those who were involved and knew about them will be terminated, he told NRK.
He also claimed he hadn’t been made aware of the illegal practices until recently. “Of course we have now heard about it,” De Maeseneire said. He called the situation “unfortunate” and said that he and his colleagues also acknowledge the violations.
He said it was now most important to make things right, and that overtime payments will be made to those who worked without receiving the pay to which they were entitled.
Local authorities and supermarkets cancel contracts
After Adecco’s violations regarding temporary staff in Oslo nursing homes were reported to the police by labour regulators last week, police raided two Adecco-operated nursing homes in the capital on Monday. Oslo officials confirmed on Wednesday that all their contracts with Adecco, for a wide range of temporary worker services, would not be renewed when they run out in June. At the same time, authorities in Bærum, just west of Oslo, has chose to end their contracts with Adecco, which were up for renewal from March 1st. Spokespersons for the muncipality nevertheless insisted that the decision not to renew the contract had been taken before the recent scandal broke out.
Supermarket giant Coop also chose to terminate its agreements with Adecco with immediate effect on Monday. Coop’s Director of Information, Bjørn Kløvstad, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that “we are usually patient with our partners, but Adecco itself has gone out and confirmed that what has been revealed actually goes on.” Following the intense press coverage, Adecco said the termination of their contract “did not come as a surprise.”
The reverberations in Norwegian politics continue, with Labour Party Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg taking the opportunity to attack the country’s more conservative parties for their pro-privatization policies. Speaking to Fafo’s national conference in Oslo, Stoltenberg said that “the Adecco case underlines how important it is to have strong regulation, strong trade unions and a vigorous effort against social dumping.”
Stoltenberg singled out the right-wing coalition running Oslo’s city council for particular criticism, asserting that it exposed the Conservative Party’s “naive” and “blind faith” in a market within social services. Conservative Party Leader Erna Solberg responded that “Oslo has set an example” for others through its cancelling all of its care home contracts with the private agency, and accused the prime minister of ignoring problems in nursing homes in the public sector.
The ramifications for politics have now extended to the running of parliament itself. The presidium was to announce on Thursday whether it would continue working with Adecco.
More working rights-related scandals, particularly in the health care sector, are expected, as labour regulators and the nurses’ union told newspaper Dagsavisen that many badly treated workers were coming forward with cases of inadequate pay and conditions, emboldened by the current media interest in the Adecco case. A union representation of nurses in Oslo, Eli Gunhild By, claimed that “perhaps workers now feel more confident that this will taken seriously and taken hold of.”
Adecco was also under fire from within its own branch. “It really irritates me that one company can ruin everything for the whole branch,” Petter Furulund of employers’ organization NHO told newspaper Aftenposten on Thursday. Other employment agencies that are members of NHO held a crisis meeting on Wednesday to discuss how to meet the challenges posed by the Adecco scandal.
“This doesn’t just put Adecco in a bad light,” Furulund said, adding that it boosts anti-privatization campaigns by “the left and the labour unions.”