Stoppafusket has been in Cyprus and in Paris in the trace of the tax cheating Staffing Group Atlanco Rimec. We have found a Europe that is boiling with anger over Atlancos methods. But in Sweden, the group continues its operations uninterrupted.
Stoppafusket has previously written several articles about Atlanco/Rimec ravages in Sweden and the rest of Europe. Employees who are fired when they are injured on the job and do not get any sickness benefit. Social security contributions and taxes are deducted from the worker’s salary but not paid.
To get more facts I am simply going out in Europe, to the small Republic of Cyprus. I go there because- right now – at Filbornaverket in Helsingborg in Sweden about 60 polish people from Atlanco/Rimec are working there. The job at Filbornaverket began in August 2010 and still no social security contributions are paid in Sweden. I go to Cyprus to get more facts about the Cypriot company Rimec – one of the arms of the octopus Atlanco Rimec Group. NCC is the main contractor on Filbornaverket and the company that hires staff from the Cypriot company Rimec. I go to Cyprus because I want to get to the bottom with the answers that NCC have given me about Rimec.
The place is Nicosia. A really boiling hot Nicosia. The capital of Cyprus and the capital city in Europe for letterbox- and offshore companies. There are plenty of business houses which include offices. Nicosia is a pretty busy city with Cypriot standards (and they all drive on the wrong side of the road). I have few hours before I should meet with officials from the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance. During this time I’ll try to find Atlanco Rimec Groups office. I have some addresses I found through hard searching on the internet. The first address for Atlanco/Rimec turns out to be wrong. But the second address is correct. I jump out of the taxi on Strovolas Avenue 89 and points at the green Atlanco Rimec Group sign at the top of the building.
– THERE they are!
I take the elevator up to the fourth floor and knock on the only door that is – the one with Atlancos green/white sign. A man, round 30 years of age, with dark blond hair opens. I look behind him to get a glimpse of the office. And it is not at all what I expect, because behind him there is only one very large and bare room. To the right appears a small office and a few covers. That´s all. Here are, no more than one, maximum two people working. The man is very annoyed that I have turned up here at Atlanco/Rimecs office. He has no desire to tell me his name. He claims not to know anything about Atlanco/Rimecs business. He works only with IT and the Director is not here. The secretary is not here either. She is at home with a sick child. But he says that this office is for the two Cypriot companies Atlanco and Rimec. I am here at Atlanco/Rimecs office to confirm what several sources have told me – that Rimec face Cyprus in the Supreme Court.
– Yes, I know that. The director has talked about it. But I have not listened. I know nothing about it and I do not want to know something. You may contact the director and talk to him, says the IT-man.
But the contact person for Atlanco? Is he here?
I take out a paper and try to pronounce the Greek name.
– Where did you get that information from? The man was only working here two weeks then he was fired. And it was a year ago.
I found the information on Internet. How long have you worked here?
– Three years.
Three years in Cyprus?
The man’s irritation begins to turn into pure anger. He wants me to go. I give him my business card and ask him to tell the director to call me so I can get answers to my questions. The director never phone up, so a few days later I call Atlanco/Rimec office. Again, it was the IT man who I talk to.
– I’ve talked to the others and there is no one who wants to talk to you. You journalists just write false things all the time!
On the way to the headquarter authority on the small island, and to the two officials from the Ministry of Labor and social Insurance, I have with me the email that NCC Construction’s communications director sent to me:
“We have not seen any A1- certificates for Rimec ltd Cyprus employees at Filbornaverket. According to Atlanco/Rimec they have paid social security contributions in Cyprus (we have seen evidence of this payment) and now the Cypriot and the Polish authorities are disputing about in which country the social security contributions shall be payed – and therefore also which country that should issue the A1 “.
I want at this meeting with the two officials get this confirmed or denided. The A1- certificate is central in the Filborna case. According to the EU’s basic rule the Cypriot Rimec shall pay the social security contributions for their employees in Sweden. There are exceptions to this general rule. And that’s if the worker is posted, or if the worker is working normally in two or more countries in Europe. But then, every worker in this case has to show A1 certificate. A certificate issued by the country’s social insurance office where the social security contributions shall be payed. BUT there are many conditions that must be fullfilled to obtain the A1 certificate. (Do you want to know exactly what the conditions are, you can click here.)
I will meet the officials over lunch at a restaurant near the department. They know the EU regulations as running water and turn not an inch from their official position. I ask a thousand questions and I get no answers. No direct answers. But their answers are answers anyway. The two officials say again and again that Cyprus is a part of the EU and follows the directives contained in the Union.
But Cypriot Rimec has presented a certificate in Sweden to the company NCC Construction that shows that Rimec pays social security contributions here in Cyprus for their Polish workers who works at Filbornaverket in Helsingborg. What is it?
– We cannot know what certificates they have shown, says one of the men. But if I should guess, it might be a standard certificate issued by the Cyprus Social Insurance Services that says that they pay social security contributions. But it does not say for whom or how much. But such a paper is valid and can be used only within the Republic of Cyprus. There are EU documents which are issued by competent institutions of EU Member States for various benefits, contribution records etc that are accepted by EU Member States who apply the EU Regulations 883/04 and 987/09.
The man raises his voice slightly.
– The only thing that is valid in terms of posting or people who work in two or more Member States is the A1 certificate. Without the A1 certificate, social security contributions should be paid in the country where the labor works. That should a big company know!
NCC has also stated that the Polish Insurance and Cypriot Insurance are arguing about who shall write A1 certificate for workers who are employed in Cypriot Rimec.
One of the men looks at me in amazement. The statement from the NCC is too unlikely for him. He shakes his head:
– It is clearly stated in EU Regulation which Member State’s legislation applies and will issue the A1 document if all the criteria are met. It is highly unlikely that competent institutions would fight over who will issue the A1 document. But disputes over applicable legislation do arise from time to time which are resolved with discussions of experts of those institutions.
I have several sources that say that Cyprus has not written any A1-certificate for many years for Rimecs workers. Have you done this? And how many workers apply it then, in that case?
– We have no comments. Cyprus follows what is said in EU Regulations about issuing the A1- certificate
So if Polish workers who have never set foot in Cyprus, will be employed by a Cypriot company to be sent to Sweden to work – will receive no certificate of posting from Cyprus?
– No, they do not if they don’t meet the criteria for posting set out in the Regulation. Cyprus follows the EU Regulation.
Atlanco/Rimec shifts its workforce within 183 days. According to the EU directive, you cannot get the A1 certificate if a worker is sent to replace another person.
– What is the question? You repeat what is said in the Regulation and Cyprus follows the EU Regulation.
Several workers who were employed at the Cypriot Rimec have been injured and received no sick pay. Do you know that?
– We do not know if someone got injured if the competent institutions of the Member States in which they work in do not inform us about it and/or the individual did not apply for employment injury benefit or sickness benefit. If a person has been injured as a result of an industrial accident or disease, he can go to his home social insurance, or the country’s social insurance office where he works so they will contact us. Insurance offices in different countries work together and share information.
So you are in contact with the Swedish Social Insurance?
– All social insurance are in contact with each other.
Then you know what happens in Sweden?
– We had no information from the Swedish Authorities on the issue.
Can I see a Cypriot A1-certifikate how it looks?
– They look exactly the same as in the rest of Europe but they are in Greek.
I’m sitting with an ice cold glass of water in my hand and starting to feel stupid. Why am I asking these questions? All the answers exist – and they have existed all the time. I know what is stated in EU. Something that I’ve written about for years. What am I expecting? That Cyprus should have exceptions laws? And why should Cyprus have that? Should I have any thoughts that Germany should have that? Or France? Or Denmark? So why am I sitting here across the two Cypriot officials and asks these questions?
But I have one last question to them.
You are going to meet Rimec in Supreme Court. Why?
– It’s not something we can comment at the moment.
Finally it is my sources that manage to get more information about the process of the Supreme Court of Cyprus. It’s not like I thought that Cyprus sue Rimec, it is the opposite! It Rimec that sue Cyprus! This also confirms Rimecs Cypriot lawyer Achilleas Demetriades when I call him. He also says that the trial is about an “administrative matter” in terms of social security contributions. Achilleas Demetriades says that he sue the republic of Cyprus “because my client has asked me to do so.” Further, he would not give any comments until he talked to his client. He promises to come back, but do not do it, although I will email him several times.
This “administrative matter” is that Rimecs workers were denied the A1 certificate. Employees who normally work in two or more countries (outside their home country) are entitled to A1 certificate. This can be read in EU Regulation 883/2004 Article 13. One of the issues to be addressed in the lawsuit is just the term: Normally. What does this mean?
From this sue one can conclude that Cypriot Rimec asked to have the A1 certificate for the workers because they should work in two or more countries. I really do not get this. Would the workers from Atlanco/Rimec normally work in two or more countries? Atlanco/Rimec temporary employs its workers on, for the most part, less than 183 days for job in one country. It says explicitly in the employment contracts I’ve seen -and I have seen many. And the workers I met, the sources I have, say nothing about that the workers are sent by Atlanco/Rimec to continuously work in several countries. Well – that’s the Supreme Court of Cyprus, which may reflect on this for a couple of years.
Now let’s take a big step from little Cyprus and the azure Mediterranean Sea to the cultural and great France. More specifically Paris with its Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, Les Halles … The French people have always defended their history and their culture; to such an extent that Mac Donald’s on the Champs Elysées may not have their colors but must be blend in with a “regular” French sign that is not as screaming and offensive. Mac Donald de lux a la paris.
On a typical French brasserie in Paris, I met Monsieur Wladyslaw Lis. He is a lawyer for hundreds of Polish workers who sued Atlanco/Rimec before the labor court in France. The cases are about illegal dismissal and about the workers’ social security contributions. Those trials come after the great scandal that emerged in France during summer 2011. The authorities discovered that Atlanco/Rimec did not pay social security contributions in France for their workers who worked at nuclear power construction in Flammanville. Nor could Atlanco/Rimec show any A1 certificate which showed that social security contributions where paid elsewhere.
Wladyslaw Lis left his office as chief prosecutor in Poland 28 years ago and moved to France. He was tired of being a prosecutor and to constantly face traumas and tragedies. Wladyslaw Lis is 60 years and is – in spite of his profession – a very quiet man. Almost a little bit shy.
Why did you take these cases?
– There will be more cases like this in the future and I think it’s disgusting when people are being exploited in this way. It is a tragedy for the people who get into this situation. Furthermore, I resent the way companies try to manipulate the laws, he says.
Currently, there are four people in Wladyslaw’s office dedicated solely to Atlanco/Rimec case. They’ll go through each worker’s paper as hourly reports, pay slips, etc. It’s a hard work.
How many hours have you spent?
– It cannot be count, he says. But the big job will come. It’s not done yet.
The legal procedure of France is like this: First it is a first hearing where the parties shall attempt to agree. If this fails and the court considers that the case should go ahead it will be a further hearing. And will there be no conciliation the court judge in the case. Thereafter, the matter may be appealed to the Supreme Court.
What is your opinion about Atlanco Rimec Group?
– I am strongly convinced that they do not respect the requirement to pay social security contributions for their workers.
How do you think the outcome will be?
– I am convinced we will win.
Wladyslaw Lis has also a message for those who want to work abroad to avoid being exploited.
– You have to know the rules in the country where you live and you must know, at least, a bit about the rules in the country you work. It’s about working conditions, taxes, social contributions, etc. It is a necessity.
Wladyslaw Lis is confident of victory in terms of the one hundred people he represents, perhaps because he is not the only one to ask Atlanco/Rimec to account. I have met the specialized unit within the French police that has worked for a year investigating Atlanco/Rimec. It is a fairly unknown unit and the names of the investigators may not appear in print. They are also very secretive and do not answer to any details. But little information, they can leave.
– We investigate Flammanville after that 60 of Atlanco/Rimecs workers were illegally dismissed and that no social security contributions were paid in France.
The unit expects to be finished with their investigation at the end of the year. France is much tougher in their laws than Sweden is. It’s not just Atlanco/Rimec who risk prosecution. Even the customers, in this case, the French construction giant Bouygues, are risking prosecution. And it’s not little at stake.
– Applying the illegal workers the responsible are liable to three years imprisonment and 300 000 Euro in fines. Regarding the fine, we demand it first from the companies. If the company do not pay, we require money from the responsible, the owners. And of course all debts have also to be payed, they say.
The workers at Flammanville were employed in two of Atlanco/Rimecs Group companies. The Cypriot Atlanco and the Cypriot Rimec. The Cypriot Rimec that has sued Cyprus before the Supreme Court – and the company that NCC has chosen to hire 60 workers from to the construction work at Filbornaverket in Helsingborg. The Cypriot Atlanco does also appear in the Filborna case. It is the company that NCC wrote the business agreement with. No social contributions are paid in Sweden for Atlanco/Rimecs workers in Filbornaverket since August 201. There are no A1 certificate from Cyprus. But the job at Filbornaverket continues.
Vive la Suède!
List of Atlanco Rimecs work in Sweden (so far)
Until today, well over a thousand persons have been employed in Atlanco/Rimec and worked on the projects listed below. Note that the number can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled … depending on how long time the job lasts as Atlanco/Rimec have the custom to replace their personnel before 183 days. Because after 183 days, the workers have to pay tax in Sweden and then Atlanco Rimec must submit tax declarations for the employees to the tax authorities. The figures in Malmö City tunnel, reportedly 230 people. (NCC)
Dockan 2 in Gothenburg, reportedly more than 40 people (NCC)
Hasselbladshuset in Gothenburg, reportedly more than 30 persons (NCC)
Hospital in Borås T-huset, reportedly around 30-40 people (NCC)
Hallandsåsen, reportedly 30-40 people (Skanska Vinci)
Polyethylene plant for Borealis, reportedly over 400 people (NCC)
Filbornaverket in Helsingborg, reportedly around 60 people (NCC)
Hissmofors in Östersund, reportedly around 80 people (NCC)
I have searched Mr. Fergal O `Loughlin that is responsible for Atlanco/Rimecs operations in Sweden many times. I managed to reach him on Sunday, 1: st of July, but he did not want to answer some questions, because it was weekend and he did not work then. He asked me to come back the day after on the morning. So I did, but he did not answer. I left message on his answering machine but he did not return the call.