The Government Passes Controversial Work Directive

During the Labour Party’s group meeting in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said that the EU directive will be introduced in Norway, while the other government members, SV and the Center Party has taken dissent on the issue.

Previously, the controversial Data Retention Directive had been passed by Ap despite its government partners’ resistance.

About Temporary and Agency Work Directive

The EU Temporary and Agency Workers Directive (2008/104/EC) is an EU Directive agreed in November 2008 which seeks to guarantee those working through employment agencies equal pay and conditions with employees in the same business who do the same work. It is the third piece of legislation in the European Union’s employment law package to protect atypical working (the others being for part-time workers and fixed-term workers). Though it was proposed in 2002, the British, German, Danish and Irish governments blocked its enactment until 2008.

The core of the directive is equal rights on “basic working and employment conditions”. Under Art.3(1)(f) These conditions are pay, and the duration of working time, rest periods, night work, paid holidays and public holidays, work done by pregnant women and nursing mothers, children and young people, action taken to combat discrimination on the grounds of sex, race or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, disabilities, age or sexual orientation.

The Problematic Act

However, Art. 5 (4) allows for Member States to derogate from the principle of equal treatment, provided an ‘adequate level of protection is provided’. This could be in the form of a qualifying period, before which agency workers would not be entitled to equal treatment. The directive made changes to national law in any further employment rights since Article 2 now designates employment agencies as the employer. This is problematic for most countries, which does not guarantee substantive rights to all people at work.

Unions are Against the Directive

In January, over 150,000 workers came out on the streets of Norway to protest against the introduction of the directive. The labor uninos in Norway fear that the directive can undermine collective agreements by permitting temporary contracts which currently have to be agreed with the unions and it can remove several restrictions in collective agreements currently obliging employers to agree on any kinds of temporary contracts with trade unions.

The unions and the opposing political parties believe that the adoption of the directive will boost temporary agencies and precarious work in Norway where permanent employment so far is a norm.

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