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Cooperation brings better results

| By Berit Kvam

Increased internationalisation demands better cooperation across national and traditional borders. New methods and ways of thinking need input from many sources. This concerns the art world as well as the fight against criminals. But how do you create good results?

A lorry crossing a border illustrates the need for equal terms on both sides. That equality does not exist today. After the EU made changes to the directive on the posting of workers, this has become a hot political potato. The directive regulates wage and working conditions for people how are temporarily sent to work in another EU or EEA member state. One aim is to prevent “social dumping”. The transport industry, which makes up five percent of EU employment, is exempt and awaits separate rules which should ease cross-border cooperation.

A Babylonian confusion still reigns when attempts are being made to secure equal pay for equal work and good working conditions. Whether you call it ordning och reda like the Swedes, social dumping or the shadow economy, you need cross-border cooperation to get to grips with work-related crime. The spread of criminal networks across borders clearly shows that it is necessary to stay ahead if you want to stop such activity. The Nordics have joined the Baltics to broaden their fight against labour market crime.

Sweden has spent its Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers to mobilise cooperation both within the Nordic region, between trades and authorities, as well as between the Nordic and neighbouring countries. All of the Nordic labour ministers agreed to this offensive when they met in Stockholm in April, where they adopted a joint resolution and voiced their intention to escalate this work up the EU’s agenda.

The need for increased cooperation was followed up at the “Nordic-Baltic Expert Seminar on Fair Competition and Fair Working Conditions” in August, also attended by the Nordic Labour Journal. From there came the clear message that cross-border cooperation must be improved, based on the insight inspection agencies and the social partners have into how criminals organise themselves. Experience also shows that measures introduced in one country often work elsewhere too. So there is much to be learned from each other’s methodology and measures, as demonstrated in the EU project Undeclared Work.

In Finland, the fight against unfair competition has now led to a special collaboration within the construction industry, where employers and employees cooperate to catch swindlers. There is also an increase in the level of cooperation between authorities in Finland and Estonia.

Danish trade unions fear increased social dumping as a result of more labour migration and call for more control. Yet doubt remains as to whether there is a link between the two.

In Norway, the Oslo model has been a successful effort to stop criminal activity, after investigative journalism raised the alarm about conditions in the construction business and elsewhere. Oslo City Council is the country’s second largest procurer of construction work after the state itself. Today, the standard procurement contract demands from contractors that they have people on permanent contracts, a programme for apprenticeships, only one layer of subcontractors and a ban on cash payments.  

The Oslo model was presented last year in front of the new Munch Museum by the Oslo fjord. Director Stein Olav Henrichsen works closely with the City of Oslo and the architect to make sure the end product is an attractive art museum. He is “fundamentally engaged in what art means for human and social development,” and works hard both at home and abroad to double the museum’s visitors numbers.

Norway still has some way to go when it comes to foreign visitors, at least compared to Iceland – where tourism has become the largest trade and top source of income. What is needed now, experts say, is proper cooperation on social planning that can turn the stream of tourists into the best possible benefit for both Iceland and its guests.


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