Thursday, June 18, 2015

Minimum Wage for HGV Truck Drivers Should Avoid EU Scrutiny

Road Haulage Wage Regulations Come into Force Next Month
Shipping News Feature

NORWAY – EUROPE – Following Germany’s not so successful attempt to implement a minimum wage in its road haulage sector after the European Commission decided to launch an infringement procedure against the country, a new regulation on the minimum wage in the non-EU member country of Norway, will come into effect as of July 1st 2015, and will see a higher rate of earnings for both domestic and foreign drivers of HGV trucks operating within the country’s borders.

As voted and decided upon by the Norwegian Committee on labour tariffs (Tariffnemnda) earlier this year, drivers of vehicles exceeding 3.5 tonnes will be entitled to a minimum wage of NOK 158.32 per hour, equal to around €18/£13 per hour. This Regulation will be applicable for cabotage and/or international transports to/from Norway where there is a loading and/or unloading in Norway.

In 1993, the Norwegian government passed an Act which came into force a year later, to ensure migrant workers’ wages and working conditions are equal to those of Native Norwegian employees, to prevent distortion of competition to the disadvantage of the country’s labour market. The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) has rated the Norwegian general scheme in relation to European Economic Area (EEA) law, and has concluded that the scheme is in accordance with Norway's obligations under the EEA Agreement.

This latest development came about after labour unions petitioned the government and offered evidence of several cases of social dumping in the transport industry and illustrated how key players in the industry are concerned. It especially showed the large differences between EU countries in terms of wage levels, and that foreign companies running cabotage operations in Norway use drivers from countries with wages and working conditions that were inferior, stating that this particularly applies to companies from Poland and the Baltic countries.

Accusations of Social Dumping are especially prevalent in the European transport industry and have been particularly found to apply to companies based in the abovementioned countries where average labour costs per hour are often under one-fifth of the average labour costs in the transport industry in Norway, and certainly far below the minimum wage afforded by the collective agreement for truck drivers in Norway.

Particularly shocking was the evidence given via the petition showing cases of foreign drivers unable to afford food whilst working in Norway and instances when employees of the Public Roads Administration have had to buy food for foreign drivers who had cause to stay in Norway due to lack of equipment or other circumstances, because the driver had no money themselves.

According to Article 2 of the Norwegian Regulation, the wage rate shall be applicable to foreign drivers employed by non-Norwegian entities who are ‘posted’ i.e. working in the country (as defined in the Working Environment Act § 1-7), however Article 2 also states that there may be certain exceptions such as apprentices and non-Norwegian contract agency workers.

Norway’s planned NOK 158.32/€18/£13 per hour minimum wage for the truckers puts into perspective Germany's proposed €8.50 (equal to around NOK 73 or £6) per hour and the UK’s current £6.50 (equal to around NOK 78/€9).

Photo: Working conditions for truck drivers in Norway can often be testing.