Helsinki (01.03.2013 - Heikki Jokinen) The Finnish Electrical Workers´ Union recently disclosed how Estonian electrical workers were underpaid on a major construction site (car park P-Hämppi) in the city of Tampere. After the visit of the union representatives some of the Estonian electricians joined the union and asked for help.

"There are many new companies in this branch and it can happen that they just simply do not know the rules. In most cases everything is ok", says ombudsman Jari Ollila in Vasama, the magazine of the union.

In this case in Tampere the problems occurred with two subcontractors. One is a member of the contractors' association and the problems with this firm can be solved by negotiation. The other firm is registered in Estonia and the union has not been able to make any real contact with it. For this reason the union has declared a blockade against the company.

Another unpleasant aspect to the case is that the owner of the car park company Finnpark is the city of Tampere. The managing director of Finnpark tells the union magazine that Finnpark did check everything the law demands and even made two inspection visits to the construction site to verify the workers' documents. - Yet, the underpaid workers were there.

Finnpark acted immediately after they heard about the situation from the union and made it clear to the main contractor that dishonest subcontractors are not welcome.

Legislation improving

Since September 2012 all workers on the new construction sites have been obliged to carry identification documents containing their personal taxation numbers. The Act on the Contractor’s Obligations and Liability when Work is Contracted Out also stipulates that when subcontracting takes place, the onus is on the party who has delegated this work to check that all legal obligations of their counterparty are in order and that the latter pays wages and salaries in accordance with the collective agreements.

From the beginning of March 2013 the Act also applies to all older construction sites. It covers both domestic and foreign subcontractors.

The Act on Public Contracts makes it obligatory to tender all major public contracts. In this process price often has a major bearing on decisions as to who should be awarded the contract and this may benefit those contractors who do not fulfil all employer obligations.

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