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Polish Elektrobudowa court case finally over after more than eight years

The long time court case between the Finnish Electrical Workers' Union and Polish company Elektrobudowa SA ended in March with an out-of-court settlement.

The company will pay compensation to the union to cover partly the unpaid salaries and partly the court expenses of the Union. The Union represents 186 Polish electricians.

Elektrobudowa has been working as a subcontractor at the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant construction site on the Finnish West Coast. In 2011, it had some 360 employees altogether at the Olkiluoto construction site. The main contractor in Olkiluoto is the French company Areva.

Wages paid to the Polish electricians were clearly below that which was agreed on in the Finnish collective agreement. The agreement is of a generally binding character and thus sets the minimum conditions of work also for foreign employees working for foreign companies in Finland.

Upon learning of the dumping, more than one hundred Polish electricians joined the Finnish Electrical Workers’ Union which began to fight for their rights. Elektrobudowa retaliated by sacking 32 of the organised electricians, but thanks to action taken by the Union, soon reinstated them.

Many courts and many years

The court case concerning wage dumping dragged out for a number of years. The Union sued the Polish company in August 2011 and in January 2012.

In 2013, the District Court asked the opinion of the Court of Justice of the European Union. It confirmed in 2015 that the Union has the right to sue the Polish company and that an employee assigned from another EU-country must be paid according to the Finnish collective agreement when working in Finland.

In spite of this, Elektrobudowa succeeded in taking the case a further two times before the Labour Court.

Finally, in December 2018, the District Court ordered the company to pay 8 million euro plus interest, in addition to the court expenses of the Union. The company then appealed to the Court of Appeal.

In spring 2019 the Union realised that the economic situation of Elektrobudowa has been worsening significantly. It made further losses last year.

Based on this information, the Union understood that the company might not be able to pay the amount the court would one day decide upon. Also, it would probably have taken several years more to reach a final court decision and the court expenses were already considerable at this stage.

“This very eventful court case, that has lasted for more than eight years, and has had a broader significance when defining the minimum pay of posted employees, is thus over now”, says the Union.

Trade Union News from Finland has been reporting on this case several times since July 2011.

Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant construction began in 2005 and was supposed to be ready in 2009. It is still under construction. The construction site has been a source of many problems concerning conditions of work and taxes.

Heikki Jokinen

Read more:

Electrical Workers’ Union choose a new President and continue to defend Polish workers’ rights at the Olkiluoto construction site (19.12.2016)

Weak control of foreign labour and companies cause major tax losses (26.04.2012)

Polish Elektrobudowa re-employs the electricians it sacked arbitrarily (07.12.2011)

Polish company sacks dozens of organized electricians from the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant construction site

Electrical workers’ union puts in court claims for millions of euros in respect of 115 Polish electricians (26.09.2011)

Reaction to extreme wage dumping: Considerable number of Polish electricians join the Finnish union (17.07.2011)