Polish consul speaks up for mistreated workers
This week’s episode of the Kveikur news programme has raised eyebrows in Iceland. The episode shone a spotlight on the poor conditions many foreign workers have to contend with to make a living in Iceland. The programme spoke with people who had been encouraged to Iceland under false pretences, who had been cheated out of money, and forced to live under very poor conditions.
Jakub Pilch, the Polish consul in Iceland, says he was already highly aware of the issues raised. They often worst affect people who work in the country for just a few weeks or months at a time. “Usually the issues come up when the worker is on the way home and they are told in their last few days that they have done something wrong, or not done something that they should have done, which means that the employer will either pay them nothing, very little, or say they will pay later once matters become clearer.”
He says the number of such cases is increasing. He sees two or three per week—most often men—who report their cases and complain about employers. “And of course it’s only a few who get in touch. I know that not everyone who lands in trouble gets in touch.”
Jakub says there is a great need for better advice or assistance from unions or the authorities. It is difficult to get cases looked into and he does not always know where he should direct people.
He is also critical of the Directorate of Labour, saying they do not deal appropriately with such cases. He has, for example, been waiting two weeks to hear about a meeting he requested with the Directorate. “I suggested a meeting, I wanted to meet and discuss these issues, but I have still not heard back.”