Norwegian woman ‘lucky’ to survive Swedish axe attack

UPDATED: Swedish police have arrested two people after an elderly Norwegian couple were attacked in Värmland near Sweden's border with Norway. Police said the woman was lucky to survive a blow to the back of the head with an axe as it connected with the blunt side.

Norwegian woman 'lucky' to survive Swedish axe attack
A file photo of an axe not related to the story. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

“The woman was extremely lucky. He threw the axe full force, with both hands from six meters away and hit her on the back of the head. If it had rotated half a turn it would have connected with the sharp edge,” Värmland police duty officer Christer Magnusson told news agency TT.

Police describe the incident as entirely coincidental. The couple were driving through Töcksfors in Värmland when a car approached from behind and tried to overtake them on the inside. Instead of passing them, it drove straight into a lamppost.

The couple stopped and a man rushed out from the crashed car, opened the door of their vehicle, and began to attack the driver. The Norwegian woman fled her vehicle and was chased into a nearby candy store, where one of the attackers threw an axe at her.

Her husband subsequently ran into the store and was threatened with a knife several times.

The three attackers, two men and a woman, then took took the Norwegian couple’s car and disappeared from the scene in the direction of Norway. The couple escaped without any serious injuries.

“They (the attackers) never drove over the border. Norwegian customs claim they didn’t cross the border, so we’re looking for them,” duty officer Magnusson explained on Tuesday morning.

Later in the afternoon police confirmed that they had arrested two people and were still looking for the third.

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How rogue firms in Norway steal salaries, and what you can do

Some companies in Norway try to take advantage of foreign workers by skimming their wages or withholding benefits. Here's how wage theft works in Norway, how to spot it and what you can do. 

How rogue firms in Norway steal salaries, and what you can do

Norway is known worldwide for being a great place to work, with a particular focus on wages and work-life balance. 

However, there is a dark side to working in Norway, and there are plenty of ways in which workers, particularly those from overseas, can be taken advantage of. 

READ MORE: How foreign workers can be exploited in the Norwegian labour market

Despite several laws and countless employee organisations trying to keep things in check, there are still a few rogue firms out there finding ways to flout the rules. 

Wage theft is one-way workers in Norway can be taken advantage of. The concept is quite straightforward: wage theft is when an employer doesn’t fulfil its obligation to pay the employee salary, overtime, holiday pay or other remuneration they are entitled to. 

Typically, wage theft can come in three forms. The first is the most obvious because companies typically withhold wages. The other two tactics include paying the employee less than they are entitled to, and the third is paying the full salary and then demanding part of that wage to be repaid on illegal grounds. 

There are some legal grounds for withholding wages, such as if the work was not carried out. 

Typically, skimming wages and not paying things like overtime and holidays are the most common forms of wage theft. Project-oriented work, where some period of crunch time to meet a deadline is expected, is one area where the failure to pay overtime may occur. 

READ ALSO: What are the rules for overtime in Norway

How to spot wage theft 

For starters, employers cannot offer cash-in-hand work. This has been done to prevent wage theft. All salaries need to be paid via bank transfer to ensure there is a paper trail in the event of wrongdoing. 

Secondly, you must track your wages and ensure you receive a pay slip for every salary payment. You will then need to ensure that your wages line up with the salary you agreed on and the hours you are working. 

Thirdly, familiarise yourself with Norwegian labour laws. It may seem tedious, but it will help you with the harder-to-spot forms of wage theft regarding overtime and holiday pay. 

This is because when you raise issues, a rogue company may provide you with false information as to why you’ve not been paid, why your salary is lower than expected, or why you didn’t receive overtime or holiday pay. 

If you aren’t covered by a union – and potentially even more exposed to potential wage theft – you will need to check if a minimum wage applies to your industry. 

The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority is a great resource to use. It has an overview (in English) of a number of key working laws covering everything from working hours to holidays and pay. 

What you can do if you think you are the victim of wage theft

The first thing you should do is query the employer. It may be a genuine mistake on their part, and they may remunerate you. 

Although double-check that they are not providing you with false information if they refuse to pay you what you think you are owed. 

Then you should tip off the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority so it can inspect the situation further. 

When it comes to getting your money back, things may be more complicated. One option recommended by legal professionals is petitioning the employer for bankruptcy. 

After doing this, you can apply to NAV to have your wages and expenses covered. 

Once you’ve petitioned for bankruptcy, you can file a payment claim to recover the money. The letter should be sent and tracked. If the payment claim goes unpaid, then the debt collection process begins. 

This means that the matter can end up in court. 

One issue with this is a lawyer may be required to offer guidance, which can be expensive. 

Secondly, some companies move their assets and then close up shop to try and get around paying the claimant. 

Wage theft is a crime, so you should also contact the police to ensure the person responsible is punished. 

Is enough being done to stop wage theft? 

A wage theft law came into effect in 2022. However, just one employer has been convicted since the law’s introduction, and around 90 percent of cases are dropped. Depending on the severity, wage theft is punishable by up to two or six years in prison.

Criticism of the current law revolves around the victim being responsible for recovering the stolen wages. Many argue for the law to be changed so that the state is the one who collects the stolen salary on the employee’s behalf.