A Polish contracting firm, which was working on three large projects in Iceland, has left the country. Its workers, whose monthly wages were up to hundreds of thousands of krónur below the minimum wage, have been left behind, according to RÚV.
According to Halldór Grönvold, deputy CEO of the Icelandic Confederation of Labor (ASÍ), the company clearly never intended to abide by Icelandic law. It owes its workers tens of millions of krónur. Not only did the company, G&M, fail to pay the minimum wage; it did not pay overtime either and failed to pay taxes on its operation in Iceland.
G&M was a subcontractor for LNS Saga and had worked on numerous construction projects in the country. This winter, it was working on a patient hotel on Hringbraut road in Reykjavík, an athletic facility for Valur at Hlíðarendi, Reykjavík, and the geothermal plant at Þeistareykir, North Iceland.
The rights of dozens of Polish workers were violated. In an interview with RÚV, Halldór said everyone loses in such a case. He pointed out how hard it is for companies of honest people to compete for projects with those who exploit cheap labor. “We can assert… that the reason for the contracts and the contract relationships was that the aim was to cheat and deceive,” he stated.
Ásgeir Loftsson, managing director of LNS Saga, reacted to the news by saying, “I don’t want to interfere in this right now, but we and all our subcontractors pay according to Icelandic contracts, and should do, and if they don’t, then it’s a violation of an agreement with us, and then we react. It’s unacceptable for us if people don’t get paid according to Icelandic contracts and laws and rules.”
Halldór emphasized the importance of legalizing a chain of responsibility, meaning that contractors be responsible for the subcontractors and temporary work agencies they hire, making sure their workers enjoy rights and wages according to wage contracts and the law.