How Hard Can it Be to Follow the Rules? PT. III - The Cat Who Knew Too Much
If it wasn't for our cat getting lost, we would have never have known...
The union was fighting for us - without us. Then they deported us.
This is Part III of Elaine's Story: How Hard Can it Be to Follow the Rules? This is an ongoing chronicle of the Dearly Deported. You can find all other parts, here.
My husband, Noel had started the new job at Agroma. Things were going well, and I could tell. We all could. He walked different. My daughter and I would wait at the window for Noel to return home from work and watch him cross the street from the bus stop. Instead of the staggered lurch of a wounded animal - his spine grew straighter, his body taller. Dad was coming back.
From one extreme to another, he could not help but compare his new work place with where he had come from. Everything was so much better. We were still staying at a friend's house, as our previous home was tied to Noel's previous (bad) employer, "The Boss," but we started to feel like we had a home again.
Still, The Boss had not paid Noel's final salary. Financially this was unfortunate, but it was worth it to have this person out of our lives. The problem was this last salary had to be arbitrated. It could directly affect the main priority, our residency permits.
Appropriately, MoneyPenny, the ombudsman from Kommunal, would not let this go. Somehow she was able to force him to make a payment. But in true 'The Boss' fashion, he deducted the last electricity bill for our home from the salary. We didn't care at this point, but MoneyPenny did. She insisted this was against the law, and that we needed to be patient as she arbitrated this according to the rules
This was the email we got from the union:
Whatever. We were focused on rebuilding our lives.
We had found a home on a big farm next to the incredible Söderåssen national park. A beautiful new world to explore right on our doorstep. Socially, we met our amazing new neighbors, and my daughter and I become regulars at the local library and church, all with a set of wonderful activities for young children. As mentioned in Pt. II, the supreme stress on us from The Boss's holding us hostage was likely the reason why my first heart surgery failed. Back on stable ground, I felt ready to prepare for the second surgery.
Little do we know, our beloved cat's vacation would be the main clue in a mystery we are trying to solve to this day.
Other than The Boss, the only other loose end during this transition was our cat, Ms. Mata Hari. She had gone walk-about the week before we moved. We couldn't blame her, it was a stressful time. We had searched everywhere and notified the local vet. But, little do we know, our beloved cat's vacation would be the main clue in a mystery we are trying to solve this day.
When the vet called us several weeks later let me know our cat was safe we were all delighted. Then, she asked:
"... you haven't been contacted?" "No," I replied.
"Oh? Well I was 'phoned by (The Boss's wife) that she had your cat. Do you have her number?" the vet replied...
I had her number.
To be fair, the Boss's wife had been nice enough in the past, at least, civil. I told our daughter who was so happy and excited to have the cat home. I told Noel, and we comprised a security plan to get the cat as swiftly and simply as possible. Rather than set up another, potential dialogue we decided on sending an SMS thanking her for finding the cat, and proposed a time to get her back. We didn't hear from her, so I sent a series of reminders for 3 days.
We tried calling and sending more messages (unsuccesfully) before we simply said via text we would come by one Saturday.
It was not an easy exchange.
Armed with our kitty carrier and a box of chocolates as a thank you, we piled into the car and went to The Boss's house. Noel and I were in full mission mode, while our daughter sat giggly in the back seat. We've gotten quite good at pretending for her at this point.
When we arrived, our daughter went running up to the door. Before she could ring the bell the Boss' wife opened the door. "Hello!" I said a few paces behind as my daughter handed over a box of chocolates.
The Boss's wife took the chocolates from my daughter and asked me directly what this was for, aggressively. Before she was always civil, but now she was livid. She barked repeatedly, "Why is the cat not registered? Why are you here?" I tried to reply, but it just fuelled her hostility. I felt threatened, dropped the kitty carrier and went to pick up our daughter and retreat. Noel, strategically on overwatch in the car to avoid a situation exactly as this, got out and started started walking towards us. It was then The Boss' wife grabbed the kitty carrier.
At that exact moment, The Boss came from around the corner, intruding on his wife's tirade, and warmly shouted, "Oh hello Noel!" with a smile. I guess they had a strategy too.
The Boss walked up and placed his arm around Noel, and started with sweet small talk, "so how have you been?!"The Boss's wife came back from the house with the kitty carrier. We saw Mata Hari's silhoutte illuminating through the breathing holes. As I walked back, with my daughter in my arms to take it from her she threw it, a good two meters at my feet. It wobbled left and right and thank God landed upright. As Noel was led, arm around his shoulders by The Boss, I picked up the kitty carrier and briskly walked back to the car. On the way, I heard The Boss say:
"Noel, I honestly thought your semester money was included in your monthly salary. I want you back and I can see my friend at Migrationsverket and sort all this out."
I was disgusted. I waited in the car with the cat and my daughter happily preoccupied in their reunion. However, if it were not for this cat exchange, we would have never have found out that Kommunal had decided to sue The Boss.
The Boss handed a copy of an English translation of a summons from Kommunal. According to the Boss, Kommunal had the audacity to place in his letter box. We had no idea. No wonder The Boss's wife was hostile.
Immediately after coming home, Noel sent an email to Kommunal, both to MoneyPenny, our ombudsman, and the Kommunal 'legal expert' Thomas. Noel outlined what had happened along with a copy of the summons. MoneyPenny responded that she had to place this in his mailbox, as The Boss had repeatedly denied receiving this summons in person. She said he had avoided several messangers from the court.
And then it started all over again. The Boss started again with a barrage of calls to both my number and Noel's, at all hours night and day. I certainly did not answer. Noel also ignored the calls. As The Boss was not getting the attention he was demanding, he followed up with an email sending reams of medical information about his deteriorating health condition, as a result of the stress of the summons from Kommunal. Ironically, it appeared he had the same stress on his heart as I did. The calls continued.
Finally, The Boss sent an email directly asking Noel's role with the summons from the union Kommunal, Noel's motivations, and the main threat that he had used against us all along. Our true weakpoint - our residency permits:
"If we must have a process in the court then i must with an lawyer and migrationsverket." - The Boss
See for yourself:
Noel contacted MoneyPenny, and informed her of the harassament. She told Noel that Kommunal had issued a warning to The Boss to cease the harrasment, specifically as Noel had nothing to do with the legal proceedings at all. After all it was true - we never knew.
Calls and messages from The Boss stopped, but he still sent the invoice for electricity bill for the last month in the house we previously rented from him. This was another action area for MoneyPenny. She said this should not be paid as she had been told the negotiations were almost concluded, but again, there was no detail on what these negotiations on our behalf were. Regardless, The Boss, during his charm offensive had refunded it.
While we had settled in, gotten our cat back and I completed my 2nd heart surgery succesfully, we were still in limbo. We had repeatedly told MoneyPenny how important the residency permits were for us. Waiting for the case with Kommunal we were never asked about the added stress to the main issue - there was still no decision on our work permits.
At Noel's new job at Agroma, things were going very well, but he was still in in the mandatory probation period before being offered permanent employment. He worked hard, focused. After 4 months (instead of the usual 6) we were all pleasantly surprised when Agroma offered a permanent contract. Of course he signed!
And then just two weeks after signing with Agroma, we got the letter from the Migration Authority, they wanted more information. Kommunal, the same labor union that was suing The Boss, officially stated:
"Employment conditions are worse than those stated in collective agreements."
We were likely getting deported.
Elaine is an international professional, Kompetensutvisning Survivor, and Head of Advocacy and Operations for and co-founder of Real People. She wants to share this story, for others going through this to make sure they feel that they’re not alone.
How Difficult Can it Be to Follow that Law? Pt. IV releases in a week.
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