Every time you look at the magnificent Tele2 Arena in Stockholm or the amazing office building Kuggen in Gothenburg you should know that the facades were set by Lithuanian workers who only earned approximately SEK 30 per hour for their labour. Their employer? UAB Staticus.
Staticus is a company of contrasts. On the one hand, there is the fresh, bright, ultra-modern factory premises outside the city of Vilnius in Lithuania, where the company manufactures glass and aluminium facades (premises that make many factories in Sweden look very 19th century). On the other, the extremely low wages for Staticus workers who come to Sweden to put up facades. The salaries do not, in any way, follow the collective agreement that the company once signed in 2009.
In total, Staticus today has around 390 employees. Approximately 100-140 of these workers work two -shifts in the factory. When times are really hectic, production is running around-the-clock and the workforce works three-shift. The number of personnel who are sent abroad usually vary between 75-100 people. This was explained to us by the management of Staticus when we visited Lithuania. After a tour of the factory and the office premises we met several of the managers in the fashionable meeting room. Among others sitting around the big black table were Ignas Stasiukonis, CFO and Tomas Astrauskas, President of UAB Staticus.
Lithuania and the construction business in particular was hit hard by the financial crisis in late 2008. Several construction companies went bankrupt, and Staticus decided to find new markets abroad. The effort has been successful. Today, as shows in the company’s annual reports*, essentially all Staticus sales come from Sweden and Norway. And Staticus has also been involved in many major construction projects in our country as a subcontractor to, among others, construction giants such as NCC, Peab, and Skanska. (See list of projects at the end of the article)
2011 Norway – NOK 14 per hour
In the last year Stoppafusket has made a comprehensive review of Staticus. We have processed downloaded information from three different countries: Sweden, Norway, and Lithuania in order to get the most complete picture of the company possible. We began in Norway with Arbeidstilsynet, the Norwegian Working Environment Authority. In early 2011, the authority made an oversight on Staticus and discovered that the contracts of employment for the workers were not, in any way, consistent with the pay slips. Arbeidstilsynet writes:
“Arbeidstilsynet notes that there is no correlation between employment contracts and pay slips in respect of wages and holiday pay. The contract stated salary to NOK 144.50 per hour while wages in the pay slips are set to approximately 6.4 litas per hour (NOK 14.3 per hour) “
Hence, the salary Staticus workers got was roughly equivalent to the minimum wage in Lithuania.
In their report Arbeidstilsynet continues:
“We have noted that it paid compensation totaling 7 842.67 litas as Arbeidstilsynet perceive as remuneration for board, lodging and travel. Our view is that these benefits are not included in the wage concept because they are not included in the calculation of holiday pay, tax and social benefits. “
Staticus’s model of paying extremely low wages and dress them up by adding tax-free subsistence allowance is a common cheating model for companies from Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania.
When we sit at the table, the Staticus’s President Tomas Astrauskas comments on the report from Arbeidstilsynet.
– It’s idiotic! No one can live on such low wages. It must be the translation problems when we sent in our papers in Lithuanian. We pay our workers according to the Norwegian collective agreement, he says outraged.
Back home in Sweden we contact Arbeidstilsynet to check on the authority’s translation process and got the answer that it does have the expertise and has translated the Lithuanian papers correctly. We send additional questions to Staticus to give them the opportunity to comment. This is their answer: “ After the Arbeidstilsynet audit of Staticus company in 2011, The Company has adjusted its documentation in order to ensure compliance in Norway. Following adjustments were implemented:
– Working contract has been adjusted according to Norwegian Law.
– Payslips are issued in Norway.
– Payroll taxes are paid in Norway.
– Salary is paid according the last version of Glass Agreement.
– Other contributions are followed.”
2012 Sweden – SEK 30 per hour
We continue our investigation in Sweden and the Swedish Tax Agency. There are documents from an audit of the company for the year 2012. And again, in black and white, there it says that Staticus pay their workers extremely low wages.
First, some facts: Staticus had been involved in two construction projects for longer than six months during the year, which means that the company had become, according to the fiscal rules and regulations, a so called “permanent establishment” in these projects. A simple explanation of “permanent establishment” is that Staticus had been “Swedified” and should comply to all Swedish tax laws and regulations just like any Swedish company. In turn, it also means that Staticus workers should pay tax in Sweden.
The Tax Agency audit is, however, not complete. Not all workers paid their taxes here in Sweden. And the reason for that is that they earned too little to make it economically feasible for the Tax Agency to spend time figuring out the debts. Only the workers who worked here for more than six months on the projects were included in the agency’s investigation
In the audit documents we find the names of the workers, the number of months they worked and received wages in Sweden**, as well as their total salary. A calculation of hourly wages, including vacation pay, gives at hand SEK 19 (as the lowest ) and SEK 51 (the highest) in salary respectively. Most wages land around SEK 30 per hour. (Click here to see the full list)
The company says that Stoppafusket has calculated it all wrong. Staticus writes:
“ Please note that period indicated within the tax audit file represents employees total period on the project without excluding time spent in Lithuania or other country therefore such calculation is misleading. Please also note that taxable income is already without per diem 220 allowances. 30 SEK/h rate was calculated based on number of negative assumptions and is irrational as it‘s even lower than the average industrial salary in Lithuania at that time.”
2013 – the same cost
What, then were the wages for 2013? Were they still at an extremely low level? Or, had the company now raised the wages? The answer can be found in Staticus annual reports. The cost for personnel has decreased from 2012 to 2013, while the turnover has increased. Hence, it would be reasonable to suspect that the wages remain on a low level. Staticus, however, means that this is a completely faulty conclusion:
”This is an unreasonable assumption. During our meeting in Vilnius we have explained that while shifting to element production we’ve managed to decrease number of high-cost installers significantly. High cost work was transferred to the production plant”.
Tele2 Arena was one of the construction project that the Tax Agency defined as a permanent establishment during its audit for the year 2012. Here Staticus did the right thing and paid the taxes due according to the Tax Agency demand. However, Staticus continued to do jobs for Tele2 Arena well into 2013. Around 25-30 men worked at the stadium from early January until midsummer. Despite this, Staticus only paid just over SEK 55 000 in taxes for 2013. First payment of SEK 400 was made in May.
Pia Bergman, one of the coordinators against serious economic crime at the Swedish Tax Agency, says:
– This does not seem reasonable. The workplace at Tele2 arena was a fixed establishment and taxes are to be paid for the workers for 2013. The Tax Agency is grateful for all the information, she says.
Staticus, however, does not agree that the Tele2 job was a permanent establishment in 2013. The company writes: ”Staticus had 2 separate projects (Contracts) for object – Tele2 arena with 2 different clients (general contractors). The second project for internal façade, which was started in February 2013, was shorter than 6 months therefore was not subject to permanent establishment in 2013”.
Peab, the main contractor for the Tele2 Arena project firmly denies Staticus data. Peab had written a single contract (a framework agreement) with Staticus and none of Peab’s subcontractors used Staticus – in that had been the case Peab would had known about it.
2014 – permanent establishment
During our visit to Lithuania Staticus’s CFO, Ignas Stasiukonis, told us that the company had decided to have a permanent establishment in Sweden – for all construction jobs – long or short- from 1 January 2014. This means that the company from that date should pay the workers’ tax in Sweden.
Text: Anna-Lena Norberg/Kjell Johansson
Translation: C-line Productions
* 2012: 63 percent of sales from Sweden, 32 percent from Norway and only three per cent from Lithuania. 2013: 53 percent of sales from Sweden, 40 percent from Norway and six percent from Lithuania. (Figures from the company’s financial statements).
** There are only a few workers where the number of months as submitted does not match up with the number of months worked.
List of Staticus projects
Projects completed in 2015
Ullevi Terrasser, Göteborg
Kvarteret Uarda 1 C, Solna
Ullevi Park 4 (Växthusen), Göteborg
Quality Hotel View Point Hyllie, Malmö
Åhlénshuset, kvarteret Baxen, Linköping
Asarums bildningscenter, Karlshamn
Scandic Hotel Ruben, Göteborg
Quality Hotel Globen, Stockholm
Kvarteret Uarda, Solna
Kvarteret Hunden, Luleå
Sveavägen 44, Stockholm
Kallerstad Arena, Linköping
Tele2 Arena, Stockholm
MEC (Media Evolution City), Malmö
Göteborg Energi, Göteborg
Ullevi Park 1, Göteborg
Kvarteret Uarda, Solna
Friends Arena Komplex, Solna
Radison Blu, Uppsala
Radison Blu, Göteborg
Örebro Tingsrätt, Örebro
Eksjö sjukhus, Eksjö
Kvarteret Nereus, Malmö
Hedin Bil, Kungsbacka
Hedin Bil, Borås
Smålands Musik och Teater, Jönköping
Kvarteret Venus, Göteborg
Krokslätts fabriker, Mölndal
Rekonstruktion av universitetet, Umeå
Kvarteret Mästaren, Kalmar
Tegeludden 3, Stockholm
Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, Karlskrona
Park Inn, Stockholm
Projects completed during 2015
Statoil Fuel & Retail, Oslo
Stjørdal kulturhus, Stjørdal
Aller Media huvudkontor, Oslo
UNN Patienthotell, Tromsø
Rica Havneutsikten, Bodø
Sandstuveien 68, Oslo
Stensjøveien 27, Oslo
Apply Sørco huvudkontor, Stavanger
Bergen universitetet, Bergen
Høgskolen i Oslo
Kuben Yrkesarena, Oslo
Står inget på Staticus hemsida.
(Information from Staticus website)