25th Mar 2023

Norwegian unions demand minimum pay for Eastern European workers

Trade unions in Norway have called for a legal minimum wage in the construction sector to prevent "wage dumping" by companies from eastern Europe.

Norway’s Confederation of Trade Unions issued an appeal for the legal measures on Monday (7 January), arguing that a minimum wage of 125 kronen (15 euro) an hour should be applied by both Norwegian and foreign constructors working in the country, according to AFP.

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Currently, builders from Polish or Latvian companies earn about 2.40 euro an hour. Although these firms are prevented from setting up shop in Norway, they outsource their labour to Norwegian contractors.

A state-sponsored mediation group will now look into the issue.

Norway introduced several restrictions for workers from countries joining the EU in May 2004.

Not itself an EU member, Norway belongs to the European Economic Area and the Schengen agreement, and therefore abides by rules on free movement of labour.

Similar worries next door

A similar case in Sweden has already ended up in the courts, as a construction workers’ union blockaded three Latvian building sites in protest against wage dumping.

The court ruled the blockade acceptable in December, prompting the Latvian government to issue a complaint to the European Commission. The Commission's verdict is still pending.

The Swedish construction industry is currently protesting vehemently against the new EU services directive, which might lead to further opening up for foreign companies with low-cost labour, insufficient site inspection and other inadequate health and safety standards.

Construction remains a key economic industry in Sweden. Government figures show that construction represents approximately 8-10 percent of Sweden's labour force when interdependent sectors are also taken into account.

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