Theater of Cruelty

Social dumping and bitter reality

In Christmas, Christer Gulbrandsen wants social dumping to be a myth – and that the proposal for a service directive does not increase the risk of social dumping. Both are fundamental mistakes.


The proposal for a Services Directive increases the risk of social dumping precisely because European working life is already ripped apart in advance by social dumping. At the same time, any rule change that increases competition in working life increases the extent of social dumping. But increasing competition is the whole purpose of the Services Directive.

Two articles in Dagens Næringsliv, one from April 1990 and one from August 1997, show what competition leads to – in a Europe where the capital side is given ever greater freedom of action and where public regulations do not work as intended.

mountains 1990

On April 5, 1990, the cleaning industry in Bergen is described as follows:

- «The battle for missions… has developed into a veritable war where all means are used. A number of companies operate without paying VAT, taxes or collective pay to employees, only 15-20 of the companies are serious… »

- "The lowest bid for a job may be one-fifth of the highest bid."

- The companies "primarily employ unorganized labor, and with the current situation in the labor market, it is easy to find people who take a paid job under a collective bargaining agreement."

- «… there are glaring examples of demands from employers to work up to seven extra hours every day without pay. A person who was not willing to do this was fired. "

Berlin 1997

On August 7, 1997, Dagens Næringsliv depicts the construction industry in Berlin as follows: Potsdamer Platz in Berlin was for some years Europe's largest construction site. There, companies like Daimler-Benz, Sony and ABB built a new district for 30 billion kroner. Four thousand construction workers were in the swing, the few of them German. German construction workers were out-competed by foreigners working longer days for lower wages. The Portuguese got 8-15 mark hour depending on qualifications. Romanians could not count on more than 5-10 marks. If you worked as an illegal immigrant, there was no lower limit. Russians and Ukrainians were paid down to 2 mark an hour, under a tenth of the German minimum wage for relief workers.

The largest legal entry group came from the UK and Ireland and defined themselves as self-employed. Thus, they should not be secured and they work happily for half of the German tariff salary. It was far better than going unemployed at home.

Before the Services Directive

This was before the Services Directive. But the Posting of Workers Directive was in place. And the Construction Workers' Union IG Bau had gotten through a law similar to our law on generalization of collective agreements. In theory, it should provide the same wage conditions for everyone who worked on German construction sites. This law proved completely unusable in practice. 250.000 German construction workers were unemployed at the time – at the same time as 200.000 construction workers from other countries worked on German construction sites on terms far below what German workers were used to.

The Posting of Workers Directive no consolation

Christer Gulbrandsen takes comfort in the Posting of Workers Directive – which allegedly states that "the host country's working environment and pay rules must be followed". It is true that posted workers are subject to most of the Norwegian Working Environment Act. This does not prevent Norwegian newspapers from the whole country from constantly having advertisements about hair-raising working conditions for foreigners.

But it does not help that it says that "Norwegian wage rules" must be followed – because we have no wage rules in Norway. We can rightly generalize collective agreements – and have done so in some industries in some parts of the country. But it is a heavy process, and control has been added to a Labor Inspectorate that does not have the capacity to follow up. See a number of examples on the website

Where there are no collective agreements

In the part of working life where there are no collective agreements, and that part grows every year, there are no wage rules. And this is especially where the Services Directive will ensure that competition increases. Anyone who claims that increased competition will not increase the risk of social dumping in this part of working life, lives in a reality where there are no powerless people, only reassuring sentences in a set of rules.

No matter how much the Services Directive is limited and cut before it is finally adopted, it will increase competition between people who have to survive in those parts of working life that are all pre-inhumanized by a competition they do not master.

Dag Seierstad is an EEA adviser to SV's parliamentary group and a member of SV's national board.

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