On November 8, Norway’s Mission to the EU hosted a «Seminar on a Joint European Effort for a Fair Labour Mobility».
Work mobility in Europe is almost 17 million people, and is increasing. Many people make use of the possibility of free movement of labour in the EU and the EEA.
In the Gothenburg Social Summit in November 2017, the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg invited the EU to a closer cooperation in the fight against cross border work-related crimes. Norway's experience is that employment crime has become more extensive and more organized than previously. The cases often have international branches, she pointed out and called on the EU to collaborate.
More than 70 participants from the Norwegian government, EU institutions, diplomatic missions, social partners, and other stakeholders attended the event that focused on how to ensure fair labour across Europe and combat work-related crime.
Read more about the challenges and proposed measures here.
Welcomes cooperation on European level
One of the topics during the seminar was the proposed European Labour Authority (ELA).
ELA was announced in September during European Commission president Junckers «State of the Union»-speech. The initiative is supposed to ensure that EU rules on labour mobility are enforced.
Norway’s State Secretary Morten Bakke welcomed the intentions behind the initiative on the ELA to strengthen administrative cooperation at the European level. Nevertheless, he emphasized that the new body must respect national authority and the autonomy of the social partners.
– It is our firm opinion that the authority should not have the competence to take decisions binding the participating states, he said.
More efforts needed
Norway is participating in a working group to advice on the creation and future tasks of the ELA.
– In our opinion, the initiative on ELA must be accompanied by other efforts to tackle the multi-faced challenges with work-related crime, said state secretary Bakke.
He mentioned that a possible measure could be the development of a coherent European strategy for combating work-related crime, identifying ways of enhancing coordination of efforts in this area. In addition, he pointed out that in a report sent from the Norwegian Prime Minister to the European Commission in November 2017, a number of areas are mentioned for a possible follow-up. For instance developing guidelines for data sharing between the agencies at a European level, enhancing the tracebility of certain forms of electronic payment services and improved ID control.
Head of Unit Denis Genton from the European Commission, and Counsellor at the Austrian Presidency of the EU Christa Kammerhofer-Schlegel participated in the debate together with state secretary Bakke and State Secretary Thor Sættem from the Norwegian Ministry of Jusice and Public Security.
Kammerhofer-Schlegel stated that the working-group in the European Council has negotiated, worked hard, and come a long way with the proposal. Whilst Genton from the Commission pointed out that the EEA- and EFTA-states are important contributors.
Important tripartite partnership
State Secretary Sættem emphasized that work immigration has been good for Norway. He also pointed out that Norway, in relation to the number of people in the country, receives the second most work immigrants from the EU.
However, it comes with some challenges. Sættem mentioned breach of workers’ rights, money laundering and tax evation.
– In Norway, we are committed to strengthen cooperation between institutions that have the task of combating such crime, both at strategic and operational level, said Sættem, and continued:
– In addition, we have an important tripartite partnership, state, employer and employee organ, who also have to work together on this, said Sættem.
This autumn, the Social Dialogue – Decent Work programme of the Norway Grants is being launch in most of our beneficiary countries. The objective of the programme is to strengthen tripartite cooperation between employer organisations, trade unions and public authorities - and to promote decent work.
Inga Ruginienè from the Lithuanian Trade Union Confederation, Gunnbjørg Nåvik from the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) and Anne Grimsrud from the Workers Union, Fagforbundet, in Norway, shared their experience with the Decent Work Programme.
They concluded that a social and tripartite dialogue has been a tool to achieve better results for people and society, and that it can strengthen organizations and institutions to solve problems at a lower level.
Read more about the Decent Work Programme here.
Examples of cross-border cooperation between authorities in Norway and some of the countries of origin of work immigrants were presented at the seminar.
Labor inspectorates from Lithuania and Norway, and trade union confederations discussed and shared experiences.
The Norwegian Labour Authority has over the last couple of years initiated cooperation with labor authorities from other countries. Five bilateral agreements have been established, with Lithuania, Romania, Poland, Estonia and Bulgaria, on exchange of information and experience, as well as joint inspections.
Aras Petrevičius, Advisor of Law Division State Labour Inspectorate of the Republic of Lithuania and Pål H. Lund, International officer, Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, shared their experience on cross-border cooperation. They emphasized that their model and way of cooperating, could be a useful in the creation of ELA.
Cross-border cooperation and challenges
In addition, Dirk Beekman from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment in the Netherlands, and Bart Stalpaert from the National Office for Social Security in Belgium, talked about their cross-border cooperation in the BENELUX-area.
They shared their experience with joint inspections, challenges with organized social fraud, sham construction, underpayment and working time abuse. Nevertheless, they also focused on how the cooperation has proven resourceful, and how sharing of data and better communication has helped them cooperate better.