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The Warsaw Voice » Society » August 29, 2014
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Letter to the Editor
August 29, 2014   
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Dear Editor,
I would like to describe briefly the difficulties that Polish businesses operating in Norway are exposed to.

I am a Norwegian entrepreneur, resident in Poland for over 20 years. Two years ago I launched the Norse fish processing plant in Bergen, Norway. I employ around 120 Polish nationals there on a permanent basis, paying them around 100 crowns an hour before taxes. They are fully satisfied with this rate. It is worth adding that many of them choose to work overtime, for which they are paid 150 crowns an hour before taxes. Additionally, I rent them out an apartment, for which they pay 2,000 crowns a month. The real cost is much higher. The company covers the difference, which is 2,000 crowns.

Norwegian trade unions are pressuring my company to pay the Polish workers according to Norwegian rates, that is 162 crowns an hour. If that were the case the Polish workers would be more expensive than the Norwegian ones because, as I have mentioned above, the company contributes around 2,000 crowns to the rent for accommodation. The trade unions demand that in the near future I should cover the costs of travel to Poland and back for these employees. In this situation, the costs of employing a Polish worker would be much higher than that of a Norwegian worker because I would pay the latter only 162 crowns while the cost involved in employing a Pole would be around 200 crowns an hour. This means that, as an investor, I would have to close down my company. Norse’s annual turnover is around 95 million crowns. The company operates at a low margin.

I am presenting this situation to you as I am convinced that if the trade unions achieved their goal—a change in the law— the result would be unfavorable for the Polish and Norwegian side alike. Around 120 Poles, and consequently their families, would lose their livelihoods and would become unemployed after returning to Poland. In the case of Norway, taxes paid by the Poles and my company would stop being contributed to the national coffers and local authorities.

Imagine what would happen if the same regulations came into force on Jan. 1, 2015 in Ireland, Britain or Germany. As we know, there are millions of Poles working in these countries. If the countries adopted the kind of law proposed by Norwegian trade unions, Poles would be forced to return to Poland en masse.

To sum up, I have to say regretfully that the demands of the Norwegian trade unions are in contradiction with the rules of the free market, especially the free labor market, and are incompatible with European countries’ trend towards integration. In the situation described, though hypothetically for the time being, business would be hampered, affecting the company’s owner, his employees and the country in question.

The attitude of the trade unions is a form of national protectionism, which contravenes Norway’s obligations as a member of the European Economic Community.

Yours sincerely,
Tom Lerberg
President of Norse
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