Thai berry pickers in Finland are between a rock and a hard place

by , under Enrique

I’ve been watching with concern the plight of Thai berry pickers in Finland. You don’t have to be too smart to understand that what is happening is exploitation at its best. It’s ok to treat these berry pickers and pay them a pittance because they are from Thailand and not organized.

We have seen this story of exploitation over and over again throughout history. You’ll be shafted if you’re not organized and do not know how to demand and fight for your rights.

Fifty berry pickers have decided to fight for their rights and better working conditions.

An article by Helsingin Sanomat showed that these berry pickers, who pay for their plane tickets, insurance and lodging while in Finland, make 2,40 euros an hour.

Kuvankaappaus 2013-9-22 kello 15.46.20This table published by Helsingin Sanomat shows how Thai berry pickers make 2.40 an hour. There expenses (plane tickets, insurance equipment) amounts to 3,400 euros. If the pickers sell their berries at 1.20 euros/kilo and pick an average of 5,400 kilograms of berries, that leaves them with 5,400 euros.  The sum varies depending on how much the person picks.

If you’d pay a Finn that amount of money they’d be up in arms.

I asked one of my sons if he’d work for 2.40 euros per hour.

“Are you crazy?!” he said. “I could make more from [the social welfare paid by] Kela.”

On top of low pay, berry pickers may work up to 15-hour days seven days a week for a few months. The pickers take all of the risk (buy the ticket and hope there’s a good harvest waiting for them).

One news story on Jyväskylä-based daily Keskisuomalainen showed what happened to one of the berry pickers earnings.

Chanchai Konmas, who is one of fifty pickers protesting against Ber-Ex, said that his total salary this month amounted to 1,750 euros, which is not enough to pay the loan he took in Thailand to come to Finland. The company deducted 726 euros from his salary for car and lodging expenses.

Migrant Tales plans to write on the plight of the berry pickers in Finland later this week.