Regulators at Norway’s state labour authority Arbeidstilsynet have uncovered several violations of the law at Norway’s biggest bank, DNB. An investigation into claims of excessive time on the job by Indian consultants hired in from Tata Consultancy Services found that they’ve been working far too many hours a day and, in some cases, three weeks in a row without a single day off.
“The report from Arbeidstilsynet shows that some consultants from our supplier have worked too much and too many days in a row,” confirmed Even Westerveld, spokesman for DNB. “We are of course not satisfied with that.”
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported earlier this summer that DNB employees and union officials had expressed concern that the Indian consultants were almost always at work at DNB’s Oslo headquarters building at Bjørvika, from early in the morning to late at night and also on weekends and holidays. The consultants sent to DNB by Tata have been working on DNB’s new mobile payment system called Vipps.
NRK also reported that two major trade union federations in Norway had received tips about illegal working conditions tied to DNB’s Vipps project. Authorities were alerted and in July, state labour regulators launched an investigation, questioning both the workers and management at DNB and Tata.
Both DNB and Tata claimed they were following the law, but Arbeidstilsynet found that Norwegian regulations were broken regarding overtime, the amount of hours employees can legally work during both seven-day and eight-week periods.
The authorities also reacted negatively to findings that the Indian workers were often on the job at night and on weekends, without any evidence that such overtime was necessary. Norway has strict laws regarding when or even whether employees in Norway can work on Sundays and holidays.
While some labour union officials claim DNB has thus engaged in social dumping, Westerveld downplayed the violations. He noted that the violations themselves were not nearly as extensive as those reported by NRK earlier this summer. NRK had reported that some consultants were routinely working 14- to 16-hour days.
The authorities criticized DNB, however, for failing to use its building entry system to regulate when individual workers arrived and left their offices. “That’s not so simple,” Westerveld claimed. DNB was also cited for failing to deliver information on when the Indian consultants logged in and out of DNB’s data systems.
Tata also criticized
NRK reported that the regulators criticized Tata’s system that seemed to prevent its consultants from registering the hours they actually worked, while those on duty in case of emergencies such as a technical breakdown of the Vipps system did not receive extra compensation. Tata officials, who earlier have denied that their workers were being exploited, have claimed that their consultants brought to Norway from India were eager to prove themselves by working hard. Most of them are young men with little social life outside of work, it was argued, so they often chose to spend most of their time in Oslo at DNB’s offices.
Vikramjit Grewal, chief executive of Tata in Norway, said Tata was taking the regulators’ report seriously and the report has “our full attention.” He said Tata was in the midst of introducing new measures to address the problems, including more training for Tata’s own leaders.
The regulators’ work is not over yet, as they also raised questions over DNB’s own responsibility, in addition to Tata’s, to be on guard against labour violations. More meetings, also about allegations of a culture of fear among workers, will be held while the authorities also evaluate how they will react to the violations.
Labour officials in Norway said they were not surprised by the findings of labour law violations, but concerned that they have occurred at DNB, which is partially state-owned. “The sum of all this is serious violations of most labour regulations,” Jan Ove Andersen of the El og IT trade union federation. Noting that the regulators are also looking into alleged violations by Tata at other large Norwegian companies, Andersen said it was “unsettling” that “the big firms who have used this company (Tata) are surprised that violations could have occurred.”