"They said they were professional chefs, but they were not," said Wiggo Lund, chairman of Taste of Thai.
He said it is with a heavy heart he and his wife Rung Arun Sianglam are sending the two women home.
Should get time off
Maanesita Jaidee and Wilaiwan Donkeawprai say they have worked ten hours a day, six days a week in the cafe.
They believed the salary they would get paid was 10,000 kroner per month, plus 1,200 kroner for living expenses.
Lund said 10,000 kroner is roughly what they are left with after taxes, room and board are deducted. Their earnings would be 17,500 kroner while they were undergoing training for three months. The women were informed of the terms in Thai.
"We informed them beforehand that at times there could be long hours, but that this was made up for by quieter times with less hours," Lund said. "We perceived as well that they were interested in working extra long hours during the training period. After the training they were going over into shifts."
'Not treated badly'
Lund said the women will be paid, but they have not so far because they don't have proper Norwegian papers. The women must get a Norwegian identification number before they can open a Norwegian bank account. He also said Jaidee and Donkeawprai received 3,500 and 2,000 kroner, respectively, in advance while waiting to get an account. They were also asked several times if they needed more.
"They were supposed to pay for the return journey on their own, but now we will pay it," Lund said. "I do not feel that we have treated them badly."
Jaidee's contract states she is employed as an trainee, not a professional chef as she thought. Why?
"I am aware that the contract should not have been left as it stands since we were bringing in Thai chefs from Thailand," Lund said. "The contract was temporary. If it was an intern we wanted, we could have gotten one here in Longyearbyen."
Jaidee's contract was in Norwegian. Why not in her own language?
"The Norwegian contract of employment was only sent so that they could attach it to their visa application," Lund said. "Otherwise, they were fully informed about the working conditions in Thai by my wife and that they would get a new formal agreement in English after they arrived."
Hard to find chefs
Lund said he has previously hired employees from Thailand.
"But it's hard to find people who have the skills we need," he said. "We have to go to professional agencies for help, because it turns out that some people are bluffing. We want someone who is a real Thai chef. But have failed to find any yet. It is obviously incredibly sad when it gets so that people we choose have to be sent home. But it is just as well to have it done right away."
Did you check the reference and papers of the workers before they came?
"These two had no formal education, but sent information stating they had long experience as chefs and had run their own restaurants before," Lund said.
He said a Thai chef is one who masters the most common Thai dishes and has a certificate of competence in Thailand.
Today only Jaidee and Donkeawprai work at the restaurant, in addition to Lund's wife, Rung-Arun Sianglam, who is also the general manager.
"There are some who are living in the city that will try to work here," Lund said. "They have not gotten jobs earlier because we wanted to get someone who could contribute more on the cooking side. Since the two who came were not chefs after all, we might as well give the jobs to those who live in the city."