Chinese tour firms unwilling to pay Norwegian driver salaries

chinese tourist
Photo: Filipe Fortes on Flickr

Chinese tourists are happy to visit Norway and enjoy what the country has to offer except when it means paying for Norwegian services. According to Norwegian Aftenposten, when numerous Chinese and South Korean tourists are pouring out of buses, the license plates are more often than not foreign.

The buses are more likely to be registered in Poland or a Baltic nation. Because, when Asian tour operators book their transportation, money often beats Norwegian knowledge. Foreign buses now outnumber Norwegian buses in the Norwegian tourism landscape.

So even though a Norwegian driver has native information about Norway, the tour operators tend to book their tourists on buses owned and driven by Eastern Europeans, in order to save money. The tourists don’t even need to buy their drinks in Norway, as bus firms are known to provide guests with beverages from the company’s country of origin.

“The one factor these bus firms purchase in Norway is their gasoline,” Jon Stordrange, director of Norway’s nationwide transport employers’ group, NHO Transport, told Aftenposten.

Saving money, not Norway

There’s quite some money for the tour operators to save by using foreign bus firms.

First of all, the drivers are much cheaper. An Eastern European driver is paid an average salary of 13,000 Norwegian Kroner per month (approximately 1,300 Euros) for the same job, their Norwegian colleagues receive an average monthly income of 36,000 Kroner (approximately 3,600 Euros) for.

Second of all, few of the tour bus firms pay taxes in Norway, according to Jon Stordrange. If annual revenues exceed 50,000 Norwegian Kroner, it is required to pay VAT taxes in Norway.

“This sort of operation violates the rules for so-called ‘cabotage’ transport,” the director said.

Furthermore, the rules are also violated with regards to transportation in Norway. The rules state, that buses are only allowed to transport people between two locations in Norway, if there’s a particular cause for it.

However, the rules are tough to implement and it is almost impossible to avoid exploitation of them.

Essentially it puts pressure on Norwegian bus drivers and operators as well as upsetting the Norwegian tourism business revenues.

Doesn’t get minimum wage

The price for cheaper labour is, that the foreign drivers often have poor working conditions and are accommodated cheaply on top of receiving a lower salary. Therefore, the Norwegian companies can’t compete with the prices offered by overseas firms.

Even though there is a minimum wage of 156 Norwegian Kroner (approximately 15.6 Euros) per hour, 77 percent of questioned non-Norwegian drivers said that they didn’t earn this.

A Chinese guide told Aftenposten that she would prefer Norwegian drivers as they are familiar with Norwegian roads. However, the tour operators are based in China and they decide which bus companies to hire.

“They say they can’t tolerate the costs of using Norwegians,” the guide said.

Norway’s labour authority (Arbeidstilsynet) is trying to crack down on the issue.

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