Labor immigrants during the pandemic

With the Norwegian border closing down in late January, Marcus Östvold is one of thousands of labor immigrants in Norway now not getting access to their workplace. The board of the Norwegian Elevator Union (HMF) therefore decided Monday to provide financial support to members from Sweden and Hungary who are now affected by the regulations.

Original Norwegian text by Knut Viggen at FriFagbevegelse can be read here.
Translated by the editorial staff at heis.no.

There are no compensation arrangements from the Norwegian authorities set up to help this group financially, which is why HMF has determined to support all foreign members who are affected by the strict entry regulations. “I’m very happy that the union is standing up for us,” says elevator mechanic Markus Östvold, who lives with his family in Sweden, but commutes weekly for work at the elevator company Otis in Norway.

Marcus has been banned from entering Norway since the border shut down on January 29. Since he is not been temporarily laid off and works and pays taxes in Norway, he is now completely without income. Marcus holds an apartment in Oslo and a house and family in Karlstad, Sweden. He’s starting to feel the effects, as the bills are piling up.

Marcus is one of many workers from Sweden who now are in the same situation. Several workers in many industries are now being excluded from the workplace – but being excluded does not provide a basis for being temporarily laid off, and thus there are no basis for support from the Norwegian authorities. And since he works and pays taxes in Norway, there is no basis for support from Sweden either. “It’s not the company’s fault, it’s not my fault,” says Marcus. Otis has offered Marcus to take his vacation time now, but that’s not a sustainable option. He hopes for a quick solution.

His name brother Markus Hansen, president of HMF, tells us there are about 20 to 25 members of the union who now are stuck on the wrong side of the border. Most of them are from Sweden, and a few from Hungary. “Those who went home to be with their families are now stuck with nothing!” says Hansen and adds: “It’s quite unreasonable for anyone to go from full pay to no pay, just like that. The union therefore decided to support them with 4000 kroner per week, or 16000 kroner per month. We know it only covers a small portion of what they are now losing, but we hope it will be a contribution to their endurance.”

HMF are also setting up online courses for members who are stuck in their home country.

“As a union, it’s important to make sure alle members are taken care off, even when you don’t have a home address in Norway”, Hansen says. For him it goes without saying that the union have their backs. But the full responsibility for all the commuters that have ended up in this disability lies with the authorities. “The government has failed completely. And no one is taking about this. It seems they ignore the problem all together. It’s a shame!” Hansen says.