the unseen struggles of norway’s migrant workers
After many years of struggle, migrant workers in Norway won legal protection from exploitative hiring agencies. However, a new ruling by the European Free Trade Association (Efta) has affected migrant workers’ happiness.
The unseen struggles of Norway’s migrant workers are often unrecognized. An Efta ruling has further increased their problems.
Trade union demonstration in Norway
Last month, a trade union demonstration took place outside Oslo’s parliament over a European Free Trade Association (Efta) ruling. Norwegian trade unions protested against the exploitative hiring agencies.
Migrant workers in Norway won legal protection from the exploitative hiring agencies. The law prohibited the use of hiring agencies by construction businesses in Oslo, Viken, and Vestfold. Employers stopped using hiring agencies to hire migrant workers. Migrant workers said that the move drastically improved their life.
The European Free Trade Association
The European Free Trade Association affected the short-lived happiness of the migrant workers. The European Free Trade Association, a regional trade organization for Norway, Lichtenstein, Switzerland and Iceland, said that the law breached the EEA (European Economic Area) agreement aimed at creating homogeneity with the EU (European Union).
Efta’s response can increase the struggles of migrant workers in Norway. Efta said that the law alone cannot improve migrant workers’ quality of life.
What happened to migrant workers in Norway?
Many migrant workers arrived in Norway to improve their quality of life. However, their dreams were shattered because of exploitative hiring agencies.
Joachim Espe, the leader of Norway’s Construction Workers Union, told The Guardian, “The whole system of agency employment is designed to take away the rights of migrant workers.”
Joachim Espe said that the system increased large-scale exploitation. Joachim Espe further said that migrant workers suffered a lot because of the system.
The amount migrant workers received in their account was less than what was declared on their payslip. Sometimes, migrant workers had to go for weeks without work or pay.
Jacek Pazdur, a migrant worker, was hospitalized for 10 days because of Covid-19 in 2021. However, his recruitment agency refused to pay him sick leave. He told The Guardian, “I lost about £975 in missing wages for each year I worked.”
He received his first permanent contract in September 2023 because of the new law. He said, “I have stable hours and pay. I earn more. I can make plans for the future.”
The new law limits exploitative practices within the construction industry. Marte Mjøs Persen, the Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion of Norway, said that the new law “strengthened serious and ordered working life.”
However, the new Efta ruling may discourage the government from passing the expanded restrictions against hiring agencies.