Cooperation to combat illegal labour

Over summer 2003, public authorities, trade unions and employers' organisations launched a major cooperative effort aimed at combating illegal labour in Denmark. One of the first fruits of this initiative was the arrest of seven illegal foreign workers at a shipyard in August.

On 13 August 2003, the police raided the Fredericia shipyard and seven illegal workers – five Polish and two Philippine nationals – were arrested. This action was the result of several months’ investigation based on information from an alleged organiser of a network of illegal workers. The raid followed a tip-off from the local branch of the General Workers’ Union (Specialarbejderforbundet i Danmark, SiD) which had discovered that illegal workers employed by a subcontractor were to work on the surface treatment of a ship. The illegal workers at Fredericia were paid around DKK 45 per hour, irrespective of the time of the day and the day of the week when they were working. This is about one-third of the wage paid to Danish workers under the relevant collective agreements.

This action forms part of a new cooperative effort aimed at eliminating illegal work by foreign workers in Denmark. In early summer 2003, the parliament (Folketing) unanimously decided to strengthen measures to combat illegal work and the national police was asked to draw up an action plan. Innovatively, the police's preliminary plan involves a wide range of different authorities, along with the social partners, in a cooperative effort to combat crime in this area. Over the summer, public authorities such as the police, the public prosecutor, the Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen), the Customs and Tax Authority (Told & Skat) met representatives of trade unions and employers' organisations to discuss possible initiatives in this field. One such scheme is the creation of regional networks, with the local branches of trade unions playing a major role in the detection of illegal workers at workplaces, and employers' organisations helping especially to identify the ringleaders who organise the illegal workers and the employers who hire them.

On the trade union side, it is especially the Union of Wood, Industrial and Building Workers (Forbundet Træ-Industri-Byg, TIB) and SiD which are involved, as illegal workers are mainly found in the sectors of building and construction, shipyards, agriculture and horticulture. The trade union cartel in building and construction (Bygge-, Anlægs- og Trækartellet, BAT-kartellet) is coordinating the unions' efforts.

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