They lived in terrible conditions

5. 02, 2021

Principal proceedings started at the District Court in Reykjavik in the case of 4 Romanian men who worked for the temporary job agency Menn í Vinnu. With Efling’s support, the men have sued the job agency and Eldum Rétt, the company they were outsourced to work for. The court case was filed due to illegal deductions from the salaries and disrespectful treatment.The case is also based on the alleged discrimination of the workers at Eldum Rétt, as it was the company’s responsibility to ensure that the outsourced workers enjoyed the same rights and working conditions as the permanent staff did. No representative from Eldum Rétt testified this morning. The four men provided their testimonies on the phone, but questions were also directed to Halla Rut Bjarnadóttir, the representative of Menn í Vinnu, and to Ragnar Ólasson, the managing director assistant of Efling, who worked on the case from the start. The workers described horrid housing conditions and the money shortages they experienced. “I lived on ramen noodles at that time”, answered one of the men, when asked how he lived during his first weeks at the company. “I received a small advance payment, went to charity, my friends also helped”, said another.What was it like to work for Menn í Vinnu? “Trauma”, said one. “Nightmare”, said another.The case is based on a legislation, which prohibits the undermining of worker’s rights in the Icelandic labor market by practices that offer less rights to the outsourced workers than to other workers in the country. Dozens of staff employed by Menn í Vinnu lived in unlicensed apartments, for which the rent was deducted from their salaries. “Of course, these conditions are terrible” said Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, the chairwoman of Efling. “Yet, for some they are just a business opportunity and a competitive advantage. This is intolerable for the employees and dangerous for all working people.”Menn í Vinnu had been announced bankrupt, yet Halla Rut, the manager of the job agency, told the court that “the crying Romanians case” had ruined the company. However, the company owed months in unpaid pension fund dues on behalf of the workers.The remaining question is: to what extent will the court take into consideration the disrespectful treatment and the extremely dangerous conditions, in which the workers were made to live; and to what extent will the sentence be based on the money and interests for the stolen wages. The verdict can be expected in a few weeks.