The violations were uncovered when Statnett received information that aroused suspicions of irregularities for the workers. Further investigations have uncovered information of serious violations of the workers' rights concerning wage and labour conditions.
The affected workers have received salaries in accordance with Norwegian tariffs during their assignment in Norway. However, workers report that their employer has demanded kick-back payments from the workers during their time off in their home country. Failing to comply with this has been met with threats of sanctions, according to testimonies. There have been no pay slips issued to the workers, nor any other form of documentation of the payments.
"This is a completely unacceptable situation. We assume that all our suppliers will ensure that Norwegian law and conditions of our contracts are followed, also by their subcontractors. We expect that ABB now takes responsibility for solving this serious situation as promised. They have committed to ensuring that the workers' rights are protected and that they will suffer no negative consequences", says Executive Vice President Håkon Borgen of Statnett.
ABB has ensured Statnett that all illegal payments will be reimbursed and that the workers will be offered jobs by ABB during a transitional period. ABB has committed to terminating the contract with the subcontractor. Statnett has required full explanations on how this could happen and how ABB will ensure that violations like this will not happen again.
Both Statnett and ABB have earlier this year carried out an audit and a control of the subcontractor, including interviews with workers. These showed no irregularities, but Statnett has since received information that the workers had been instructed by management not to reveal anything prior to this control.
"This is the third time within a short time period that we have uncovered serious violations of wage and labour conditions carried out by subcontractors to large international companies. This is deeply concerning, and an untenable situation. We are seeing a development where labour crime is increasingly difficult to detect, and where abolishing illegal practices is difficult. We need help from our contractors to resolve this," underlines Håkon Borgen.
All of Statnett's contractors are responsible for ensuring that relevant requirements for wage and labour conditions are met, both for their own employees and those of subcontractors. Statnett follows up with audits and controls, including interviews with workers on site and review of documentation. Such audits and controls have revealed violation also on previous occasions. Such violations have led to sanctions towards contractors on several occasions.