Wage theft must be fought!

Wallet with Norwegian banknotes

The Conservatives have recently secured a parliamentary majority for two important measures aimed at combating wage theft and strengthening legal assistance for victims. This is a big step in the right direction.

One of them is the proposal for state wage collection in wage theft cases. The wage collection process is currently cumbersome and demanding for the victims, who often lack the resources and expertise to collect withheld wages. Caritas is therefore very positive about the proposal that the state should take over the collection of obvious wage claims. This will make it far more difficult for rogue employers to escape liability, as they will face the state as a strong counterparty, rather than the individual employee. The state as a creditor will undoubtedly even out the balance of power between vulnerable employees and criminal employers.

Wage theft is a serious form of labor market crime that particularly affects vulnerable foreign workers without a financial safety net and access to important welfare schemes. When wages are not paid, the consequences are even more serious. In 2023, Caritas Norway's legal aid team handled 1,284 legal inquiries and uncovered 165 serious cases of labor exploitation. Wage theft was a common occurrence. This clearly shows the need for effective measures against wage theft.

Contract from day one

In our submissions to the Storting, we have emphasized the importance of several of the measures put forward by the Conservatives. One of them, which has not yet received a majority vote, is the requirement for an employment contract from day one. This is absolutely necessary to ensure notoriety around working conditions. We fully support this. In addition, we believe that violations of the rule should result in sanctions, such as infringement fees from the Labor Inspection Authority. This will have a preventive effect and reduce the possibility of employers exploiting vulnerable workers.

Digital solution for documentation

Furthermore, we see the need for a digital solution for registering employment contracts and working hours. Lack of documentation is a major challenge in cases of wage theft. Such a solution will ensure that both employees and the authorities have an overview of working hours, which is crucial for proving the offense. Employers are obliged to keep an overview of working hours, but this is often breached. A digital solution can help improve compliance with the law and provide employees with verifiable documentation of their working hours.

Low-threshold services must be strengthened

The second proposal for which the opposition has won a majority is to secure legal aid for victims of wage theft. One option that has been mentioned is to include wage recovery cases in the free legal aid scheme. This would make it possible for vulnerable employees to safeguard their rights and ability to resist exploitation.

However, we would also like to see a greater focus on assistance measures. Victims of wage theft have a great need for help, including legal assistance, temporary financial support, housing and finding new work. The authorities must develop a comprehensive exit strategy that includes these measures. Low-threshold services must be maintained and strengthened. Today's services are underfunded, and many people do not get the help they need. Caritas acts as a bridge to public services, and sees the daily need for more resources for this type of assistance.

We applaud the opposition's efforts to strengthen the rights of those affected by wage theft. These are important steps towards ensuring fairness and protection for workers in Norway. We hope the measures will contribute to a better and safer everyday life for all workers, and we look forward to continuing to work with the authorities to combat workplace crime.