The Directorate of Labor has sent two Arnarfell sub-contractors letters giving them one week to legally register all their foreign-born employees or else face fines. The directorate was notified of the illegal workers after a bus accident on Sunday.
Magnús M. Norddahl, a lawyer at the Labor Union of Iceland (ASÍ), told Morgunbladid the bus’ vehicle insurance would probably cover the hospital costs of the foreign-born workers injured in the accident since those who were working illegally in Iceland couldn’t expect the Icelandic health insurance system to cover the cost.
The workers in question were participating in the Kárahnjúkar dam project in the eastern highlands and were on their way to Egilsstadir for a day off when the accident occurred. Twenty of 29 workers in the bus had not been registered with the Directorate of Labor.
Sverrir Már Albertsson, managing director of AFL, the labor union in east Iceland, said foreign-born workers often seek assistance from the union when they need health care because their employers did not give them the required health insurance.
Albertsson said the health care system in Iceland does not turn anyone down although they lack health insurance and no one knows who will pay the bills.
“I think people should think about the cost to the community because of these people’s unpaid hospital bills,” Albertsson said. “It is like there is a new line of work in Iceland–employing unregistered foreign-born workers. […] Companies sacrifice their employees’ rights in order to save unbelievably small amounts.”
Robert Swiesiulski, a Polish worker who is currently recovering in the hospital after breaking his leg in Sunday’s bus accident, told Morgunbladid he does not know what his employment status will be after he leaves the hospital.
“Neither I nor any of the other workers at the hospital know what is going to happen because our employers haven’t contacted us. We’re just lying here waiting,” Swiesiulski said.
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