Efling – union received some good visitors from the Nordic Transport Workers´ Federation (NTF-Nordiska transportarbetarfederationen).
Representatives of unions in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark who belong to NTF met with the board and staff of Efling, along with union representatives from several companies.
Many topics were discussed during the meeting and it became clear that our working environment and that of our colleagues in the Nordic countries is not at all dissimilar. The main difference is that because of the geographic position of our country it’s less common for foreign contractors to take driving jobs. It has become increasingly common here though, as in other places, although the driving in question is mostly confined to passenger vehicles. In Scandinavia, truck drivers from Eastern-European contractors have increasingly become more involved in goods transport, which has led to many violations of labor laws and collective agreements in the countries in question. The most common violations are the failure to grant the legal resting period and the issuing of fake employment contracts. The contracting firms get away with violating the rights of their drivers by making double employment contracts, one in their home country which often contain stipulations which are in violation of Nordic labor laws and then another one which appears to comply with said laws.
In Norway there have been cases of trucks not having been sufficiently equipped for the winter cold and foreign drivers having been too afraid to seek assistance and having not been sure about whom to contact in cases of difficulty. Subsequently, revelations have emerged about human trafficking cases where foreign criminal enterprises are in cahoots with the contracting companies and issue threats to the staff if they seek assistance.
Our comrades at NTF warned us that this could become a reality in this country and encouraged us to remain vigilant with regards to foreign contracting companies. Foreign group travel companies began operating in this country in the summer and the Administration of Occupational Safety and Health has been monitoring their operations.
There have been discussions about whether Icelanders should allow Uber or comparable companies to operate in this country. Our comrades in NTF advise us not to do so because of the numerous issues which have arisen. For one thing, the drivers for Uber are subcontractors, which means that labor laws don’t apply to them and they have no rights to compensation, union payments or any other rights which conventional wage earners have.
Denmark’s largest union, 3F, recently launched a campaign, the STOP campaign, to fight for drivers to be granted lunch-breaks and coffee-breaks. It was so successful that membership increased by 700 and an average of 900 people met each Sunday to discuss the new collective agreements.
Our Nordic colleagues collaborate closely with unions all over Europe and feel that the best way to tackle violations in the labor market is to empower the unions where the problems are most acute. To that end, they have enlisted ILO (the International Labor Organization) for a common campaign.
At the end of the meeting, a visit was paid to the waste management authorities of Reykjavík (Sorphirða Reykjavíkurborgar). The delegation was well received, the operations outlined and many things discussed and, interestingly, the delegation found out that Iceland is the only Nordic country where women work in waste disposal and drive garbage trucks.