At the meeting of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Labour in Stockholm on 13 April 2018, we – the Nordic Ministers for Employment and Labour – discussed fair competition and fair working conditions from a Nordic perspective.
The Nordic countries fully support and encourage free movement of workers and services while recognising and emphasising the need to prevent fraud and systematic abuse. Cross-border labour mobility is positive; it contributes to greater prosperity and better living standards. But this must not lead to a situation where companies compete on lower wages, poor working conditions or lapses in safety in the workplace. Competition between companies must instead be based on knowledge and skills.
Infringements and misuse of different rules and regulations can lead to serious risks for individuals. Unfair competition leads to negative consequences for companies and society. The Nordic countries have labeled these phenomena differently – social dumping, work-related crime, the grey economy – but the challenges are many times the same. On the EU level, the term undeclared work is often used.
Whatever the term used, these issues call for measures within several policy areas. They also require well-functioning cooperation between the authorities involved, both within and between countries. All Nordic countries are active in combating unfair competition and unfair working conditions, but have chosen different ways to do that depending on national circumstances.
Measures to tackle unfair competition and unfair working conditions are mainly taken on a national level. Cross-border challenges, however, demand cross-border cooperation. We have a common responsibility for and interest in promoting fair competition and fair working conditions – both on the Nordic and the EU level.
The Nordic countries have a long tradition of exchanging knowledge and experiences, as well as cooperating and coordinating, in order to use available resources in an effective way. Supported by EU funding, we are currently cooperating through a joint Nordic Undeclared Work Project focusing on joint inspections, evaluation of results and good practices regarding communication.
The Nordic countries have similar labour market models as well as historical and cultural contexts. This facilitates our cooperation and enables it to more swiftly become concrete and practical. Common for the Nordic countries is also the importance of the autonomy and role of the social partners to conclude and supervise collective agreements on terms of employment. The social partners have by tradition a strong position in our societies and play an important role also when tackling unfair competition and unfair working conditions.
Some challenges, however, demand cross-border cooperation with EU/EEA countries beyond the Nordic countries. The EU/EEA countries differ in wage levels, living standards and working conditions. Our labour market models, history and culture also differ. Despite these differences, cross-border cooperation between the Nordic countries and other EU/EEA countries is important to accomplish in an effective way.
On the EU level, there is a need to create a common understanding of why fair competition and fair working conditions are so important. The work in the European Platform tackling undeclared work shows that there is also a need for more knowledge about different challenges and how to tackle them efficiently. Cooperation on the EU level is needed to facilitate access to information and to support cooperation between EU countries in cross-border enforcement.
It is, however, important to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all solution as the diversity of regional or national circumstances may require different solutions to what seems to be the same type of challenges. We consider it to be of utmost importance that the division of competences between the EU and the Member States, as well as national labour market models, are respected.
The European Commission has recently adopted a proposal for a European Labour Authority and in this regard the Prime Minister of Norway earlier sent a report on work-related crime to the Commission.
This joint declaration highlights a Nordic perspective on fair competition and fair working conditions, that needs to be considered also in discussions on a potential European Labour Authority, without prejudice to the positions of the individual countries in the forthcoming negotiations.
Minister for Employment and Integration
Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
Ásmundur Einar Daðason
Minister of Social Affairs and Equality
Minister of Labour
Troels Lund Poulsen
Minister for Employment