Vlantana Norge in court as it tries to get out of paying €2m compensation to HGV drivers
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Last summer, lorry drivers were victorious in their legal claim for compensation for unpaid wages against Vlantana Norge and its chairman of the board, Vladas Stoncius Junior. Together, the company and Mr Stoncius Junior were obliged to pay more than NOK 20 million (just shy of €2 million) as a result of having systematically underpaid several hundred drivers. The above figure represented both compensation as well as the refunded legal fees.
For the benefit of those not familiar with the trial, during the court case, Vlantana Norge argued that the alleged underpayment, use of double timesheets and manipulation of submitted documents was a result of “personal errors and misunderstandings”.
The court, however, was not convinced:
“After an overall assessment of the evidence in the case, the district court considers it probable that Vlantana Norway practiced a comprehensive and labor-intensive system with the ongoing production of fictitious timesheets”, said the judge ruling the case. “The court believes that this was done in order to be able to present fictitious documentation that stated they had paid wages in line with the current minimum rate.”
The court also concluded that the chairman of the board and former general manager of Vlantana Norway, Vladas Stoncius Junior, is personally liable to the drivers for the financial losses they had suffered as a result of systematic underpayment.
In practice, Norwegian trade union newspaper FriFagbevegelse said this could entail Stoncius Junior himself having to cover as much as NOK 13.4 million of the total compensation.
Several examples of Vlantana Norge’s everyday operations were referred to in court, including its regular container transport for PostNord. The assistant director of traffic at PostNord, Tom Erik Enger, testified in court and explained that they had outsourced jobs to Vlantana Norge that would involve truckers driving for periods of twelve hours at a time. For this, PostNord paid Vlantana Norge 11.5 working hours, minus a 30-minute statutory break. However, it was found that the drivers had not been paid for this time at all; they were typically credited with only 4 hours and 30 minutes.
Moreover, the district court concluded it is likely that these 12-hour days were by no means the exception, but rather the rule, and that the company’s timesheets were deliberately produced so as to deceive the authorities.
Despite all of this, Vlantana Norge has tried weasel itself out of paying compensation by launching an appeal against the court’s verdict. Their appeal is currently being heard and the trial will continue for another 20 days.
Norwegian trade union-themed newspaper FriFagbevegelse, which has long been covering the case, writes that Vlantana’s appeal doubles down on the claim that the drivers were to blame for the timesheet irregularities.
Last year, FriFagbevegelse discovered that now-bankrupt Vlantana Norge had resurfaced under the name of D4Dxpress. In 2021, parent company Vlantana was also removed from Lithuania’s approved list of companies for migrant workers due to suspected fraudulent accounting. In addition to this, several serious allegations of employee mistreatment were made against the firm in last year’s award-winning 'Lorry Slaves’ documentary.