Labor immigrants in Finland: Who exploits whom?

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

Remember when some politicians pointed the finger accusingly at labor immigrants because they would fuel racism? Remember how these politicians claimed that immigrants would work for a pittance and thereby drive wages down? A story published by Kauhajoki-lehti reveals how Swedish construction group Skanska exploited its employees at a construction site by paying them 4-euro hourly wages  and a bowl of rice every day.

A story by Kansan Uutiset claims that such workers made 3 euros an hour and worked 12-hour shifts.

So who is to blame? The worker or the company? What about those who should be regulating such sites to ensure that everything is done legally?

Most of the immigrant workers in question are from Estonia, Kosovo, Russia and Poland.

Taking into account such cases, and there are many of them out there in Finland, it’s clear that some companies will exploit immigrant workers if given the opportunity. This doesn’t happen to Finns on such a scale because they are organized.

Unions should take care of immigrant workers as much as they do their own nationals.

Does this happen? Kauhajoki is a good example that it doesn’t.

  1. Laputis

    The main reason behind immigration usually is economical. Most of migration between countries happens because of economic reasons. These reasons can be different – people are going after higher salaries, companies are looking after cheaper labor etc. In my opinion, mass immigration in EU in many cases has happened because of companies, who had lobbied governments, so that they could get cheaper labor. Lots of immigration has happened in name of exploitation and company greedeness. People (i.e. immigrants) are looked upon not as people, but as “economic units”. This attitude, unfortunately, is very much prevailing also in government. IMO it all doesn´t bring much good things, it doesn´t make world a better place. The main winners in this situation are companies and maybe governments, and few rich people.
    That´s one of reasons why I think that mass immigration is wrong. Because it often goes hand-by hand with economic exploitation of immigrants.
    I see often exploitation of immigrants in Finland. They often work the worst, “dirtiest” etc. works. It makes me angry. Those jobs should have been done by local population, Finns.

  2. Mark

    IMO it all doesn´t bring much good things, it doesn´t make world a better place. The main winners in this situation are companies and maybe governments, and few rich people.

    Migrants benefit too, no, or why would they migrate? Also, if this increased productivity increases GDP, then the country as a whole benefits, as rich people spend money too, usually more than everyone else.

    That´s one of reasons why I think that mass immigration is wrong. Because it often goes hand-by hand with economic exploitation of immigrants.

    What you mean to say is, don’t come to this country because we will take advantage of you?

    While i agree that one of key reasons behind migration is economic, a better standard of living, to put it this only this way hides another dimension to the picture, and that is poverty. People will try to move out of poverty.

    However, All EU countries have visa/permit systems that are meant to control that inflow of foreign workers. The other reasons that are also important that you don’t mention are people looking to escape conflict, find better justice or to escape persecution. These are usually the migrants that come via the asylum system. Others may later travel for family reunification, which is quite normal.

    The thing that people seem to get hung up about though is ‘abuse of the system’. This single idea is responsible for the vast majority of myths and half-truths about immigration, many of which you attempt to propogate on here, Laputis. The effect is to stigmatize immigrants and profile them as ‘abusers’. While all of Europes immigration laws are designed to offset ‘abuse’, the principles and realities of the vast majority of immigration cases become obscured behind a cloak of stigma, denigration, prejudice and resentment.

    For these people who get obsessed with immigration system abuse, the only good immigration system is a dead one, if you catch my drift.

  3. justicedemon

    The labour market in Finland has been governed for a very long time through a system of corporatism that, by and large, has been fairly effective in defending the interests of its major stakeholders, but has tended to squeeze out less influential and more marginal interest groups. Migrant workers are one such traditionally marginal interest group (small businesses are another).

    The single most important piece of advice that can be given to a newly-arrived migrant worker in Finland is to join and be active in a trade union. The most fundamental mission of all trade unions is to represent and defend the interests of their members, understood (as also in law) as the weaker parties to their individual employment relationships. No employee is more disadvantaged than a newly-arrived migrant worker, and one would imagine that unions and migrant workers are a match made in heaven, but it has taken the Finnish trade union movement a very long time to get used to the idea of having foreign members, and particularly active foreign members. Indeed until the early 1990s the agreements on employee representatives between the national employee and employer confederations explicitly stipulated that an elected employee representative had to be a Finnish citizen, and some mainstream organisations, particularly in the Akava sector, maintained effectively insuperable administrative obstacles preventing even naturalised immigrants from joining.

    Even after joining a union, foreign workers often experience a peculiar resistance when they seek to become active or to use the services of that union, and it is really only relatively recently that we have begun to see Finnish trade unions adopting a more pro-active role towards recruiting and providing targeted services for foreign members. This has required a generation shift and a change of attitude, but concrete practices always take years to develop. The most obvious difference between Finland in 2012 and Finland in 1992 is still merely one of attitude. We now at least pay lip service to the orthodoxy that unionised migrant workers are no easier to exploit than unionised Finnish nationals, and that for this reason alone, it is desirable to maximise the unionisation rate of migrant workers.