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Contract workers from employment agencies should be treated the same as permanent employees, according to the principles established through the EU’s agency workers directive. The question of how the rules should be interpreted are bound by industry agreements, according to frifagbevegelse.no.
The Norwegian Unions and Norsk Industri (the Federation of Norwegian Industries) have still not yet been able to agree on how the rules are to be applied, despite the temporary agency directive coming into force on the 1 January 2013.
The dispute centres on the payment of expenses and the so-called ‘town allowance’ of 20% above base salary. The central question is: Is a company responsible for paying travel, room and board, as well as an additional 20% allowance because the temporary workers are away from home?
According to the Unions the companies are responsible for the payment of expenses and the allowance because of equal treatment rules established in 2012. Norsk Industri disagrees, stating that this does not follow the new hiring policies or the principles of equal opportunity.
Preben W. Christensen, a lawyer for Norsk Industri, said that the starting point is that the employee should receive the same pay and working conditions as though he or she were directly employed by the client company.
Jørn Eggum, Trade Union Secretary, said: “We are further apart on the interpretation on non-discrimination policies than ever. The process has crashed.” Mr Eggum is of the opinion that Norsk Industri has conformed with the opinion of the NHO (Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises); that discrimination only occurs once you are working for the company. Therefore travel, room and board, and the out-of-town allowance are exempt from the equal treatment policy, and fall under the purview of collective agreements.
Mr Eggum said: “The attitude is that where there is a collective agreement, equal treatment can be set aside.”
Mr Christensen added: “We are surprised by the Union’s stance, and had hoped that it would be the base that they believe the principle of equal treatment means that there will be an extra 20% charge on labour contracting. But it appears that we disagree.”
Mr Eggum said that as things stand now, the positive tone and progressive process that was underway to reach common ground has come to an end. “We are now standing in our trenches.”
Mr Christensen added: “We still hope to reach a consensus through discussions.”
If the parties fail to reach an agreement, the dispute will be settled in court.