Employment agency probes spread

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Police investigating labour law violations by employment agency Adecco say their suspicions have been confirmed as the investigation has unfolded. More allegations against the company are springing up across Norway, and other firms in the same branch are under probe as well.

Oslo police prosecutor Carl Graff Hartmann told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), whose original investigation last month sparked the ever-unfolding scandal surrounding Adecco, that “the investigation indicates that the suspicions have been reinforced.” Revelations regarding the company range from discoveries of its temporary workers in nursing homes working 100 hour weeks to illegality in slaughterhouses, with the firm losing a string of high profile contracts and firing some of those responsible.

Adecco in crisis, at least in Norway
The company itself continues to deal with the snowballing crisis, confirming that it will not be tendering for further public contracts until its internal problems are addressed. Adecco Norge’s CEO promised last week that its entire workforce would start receiving standard and contractual pay levels, in addition to being paid retroactively for any unpaid overtime.

As Adecco tries to salvage its reputation in Norway, its parent firm in Switzerland claimed that anyone who was aware of the illegal operations in Norway had been fired. The press conference also reported record profits, with earnings up 23 percent in the Nordic region alone, sparking more criticism from some politicians and labour leaders in Norway who claimed that Norwegian taxpayers’ money was supporting “social dumping” and effectively being sent to Switzerland.

Lawyer Jan Fougner, an employment law expert who has worked for firms including Deloitte and Wiersholm, has also been brought in by Adecco to lead an independent investigation into the affair – the results of which are to be shared with the police and Arbeidstilsynet, the state labour regulators. Fougner commented that he had “very quickly” found a number of problems at the company, connecting with all the sectors in which it operates.

Swedish worker ‘lived in nursing home’
More revelations also emerged regarding illegal practices in other nursing homes. The company now knows that it has definitely lost three of its five nursing home contracts in Norway, with the other two pending on the outcome of various investigations. One of those being investigated is in Klæbu, Sør-Trøndelag, where a Swedish temporary worker, Johanna Backström, lived in a room within the nursing home, without its own toilet, during two separate employment periods. Adecco had supplied the room because it was obliged to find lodgings for the employee, although it immediately ended the practice when it was reported in the Norwegian media. The revelations came just days after the local municipality had decided to continue its arrangements with Adecco, on the condition that all its activity was within the law.

Investigators from both the labour and health regulation authorities have now visited the nursing home as part of a rare joint investigation into both employee conditions and patient care, revealing that they first received complaints regarding Adecco’s working practices in the area some months before. A representative for the health regulators, Helsetilsynet, told NRK that the addressing of the original complaint some months previously had followed “normal procedures,” adding that cooperation with Adecco on the issue had thus far been “very good.”

Employment agencies under investigation
Other employment agencies have not escaped the glare of the media attention currently focused on Adecco. Arbeidstilsynet officials have told NRK that they are “well underway” with a thorough stepping up of supervision activities across the country. They intend to investigate, in order, companies operating in the health sector, cleaning companies, restaurants, and finally the construction industry. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that one firm, Incita, was already in the spotlight after some of its workers were found to have worked 103 hours a week.

Investigators confirmed to newspaper Dagsavisen that they had already received further tip-offs from around the country of ill-treatment of temporary workers in comparison to full-time employees. Other employment agencies have already admitted illegality, including Konstanli Helsenor, which confirmed that some of its employees had undertaken illegal shift patterns, but claimed that this was necessary to cover sickness and other absences.

Views and News from Norway/Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
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