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| AN EVER-WIDENING INVESTIGATION IN NORWAY has revealed serious exploitation of temporary workers in care homes, slaughterhouses and hospitals. The Swiss-based multinational Adecco supplied most of the temps but suspicions have now spread to other employment agencies. Newspaper articles highlighting nursing home staff working 20-hour days for up to 20 days and others putting in 84 hours a week for years on end have been joined by television programmes alleging that the death of an 80 year-old patient, who fell from a window, was caused by similar under-staffing. Trade unions also have evidence of wage deductions for non-existent or under-funded pension schemes. As public authorities scrambled to terminate contracts with Adecco, some of which go back to at least 2004, the Norwegian post office announced that it would continue to use the firm but would ensure that temps were paid the same as permanent staff.
|tendering for any further public contracts while all its staff would now receive standard, contractual pay rates and any unpaid overtime would be restored retrospectively. The company also revealed that an internal investigation had found that the Norwegian parliament and Oslo city council had been overcharged by about €500,000. Political and trade union reaction to the scandal was not slow in coming: Labour Party Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg attacked the Conservative Party’s ‘blind faith’ in privatisation and commented that ‘the Adecco case underlines how important it is to have strong regulation, strong trade unions and a vigorous effort against social dumping’. The leader of the LO union confederation, Roar Flåthen, added that ‘permanent employment should be the norm, the use of temporary workers should be the exception’.|
Union leader Flåthen, Adecco Norway’s Øwre-Johnsen and the out-of-pocket parliament
After some local Adecco management were sacked chief executive Patrick de Maeseneire, whose company posted a net profit of €423 million for 2010, claimed from Zurich that ‘Our management, our top management, was not aware of it’. Later, as both police and the labour and health inspectorates looked into individual labour law violations, Adecco Norway’s chief executive Anders Øwre-Johnsen announced that it was withdrawing from the nursing home sector and not
Italian unions pick first female leader as women climb the ladder in Norway due to quota
INCLUDED IN THEIR PUSH FOR MORE WOMEN AT THE top of companies, trade unions have looked at female representation in their own hierarchies and often found it unsatisfactory (see issue 50). Last year a survey produced by the ETUC for International Women’s Day found that only 7% of ‘decision-making posts’ in national confederations were held by women. Now, in Italy at least, there has been a breakthrough with the election of the first-ever female general secretary by the General Confederation of Italian Workers (CGIL). Susanna Camusso has a background in the metalworking industry in Lombardy, the most important industrial region of Italy, around Milan. She was elected as general secretary of Lombardy CGIL in 2001 and national deputy general secretary last year. As the leader of 5.7 million members she vows to pursue unity between CGIL and the other two big confederations CISL and UIL which she believes have been divided by the government: ‘The divisions always produce negative consequences for the workers. Our historical ambition is trade union unity’. She would also like to see the creation of a system of rights and protection for the many young people who ‘are not covered by any form of national collective agreement.
In Norway the cause of women in top jobs has been advanced by a different method: legally enforced quotas. Starting in 2003 a rule ensuring that boards of directors include at least 40% of each gender has been gradually extended to cover all public limited companies (plcs) and state-owned public sector organisations. The law does not apply to privately-owned firms. Companies were given four years to comply and this was achieved in 2009. Recent surveys have found that, despite a heated debate when the law was passed, the policy is now uncontroversial. The female board members tend to be younger and better-educated than their male counterparts and are more likely to be headhunted from outside the company, although the specialised agencies and databases set up to recruit women have not been much used. Most men claim to have noticed neither positive nor negative changes in the business of the boards on which they sit while women directors report positive effects. Some things have definitely not changed however: only 2% of firms quoted on the Oslo stock exchange have female chief executive officers.