Seven nurses from the Philippines have prevailed in a labour exploitation case brought on their behalf against Oslo University Hospital and a Norwegian couple who helped arrange to bring the nurses to Norway. The hospital has been fined NOK 1 million for exploiting them while the couple was sentenced to jail and ordered to pay compensation.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Monday that an appeals court in Oslo overturned an acquittal of the hospital and the couple, and ruled that the nurses had indeed been exploited. Prosecutors successfully argued that the couple had demanded an unreasonable amount of money from the nurses for helping to arrange their work and residence permission in Norway, housing and their jobs at the hospital.
The hospital and the couple had been acquitted by a lower court in 2013, but prosecutors appealed. NRK reported that the appeals court evaluated the case very differently from the Oslo City Court (Oslo tingrett), ruling that the circumstances clearly showed that the couple had planned to exploit the nurses, and did so with the complicity of officials at the hospital.
The appeals court ruled that the hospital was at fault for failing to follow up on the circumstances of the nurses’ employment. “This is a bad case for us,” Morten Reymert, vice-managing director at Oslo University Hospital, told NRK. “This is not good with regards to how we handled our employees and it’s of course not good for our reputation.”
Fight against social dumping
Prosecutors had initially sought six-month prison sentences for the couple, but the appeals court sentenced them to one year and three months in jail. State officials had claimed earlier that it was important to prosecute the nurses’ case to prevent social dumping in Norway.
Three of the nurses came to Norway in the fall of 2010 to work at the hospital, with papers signed by a department leader at the hospital. The nurses, in turn, were charged large amounts of money by the couple and the hospital ended up reporting the couple to the police, claiming they hadn’t been hired by the hospital to recruit the nurses.
The hospital ultimately offered the nurses permanent jobs, after learning that they had been paying NOK 11,000 a month each in rent to the couple, plus NOK 4,600 a month for Norwegian lessons. The nurses had taken up loans to pay they expenses charged by the couple.