The fifty Thai berry pickers, who are protesting against long hours, poor pay and huge risks they take when working for Ber-Ex, not only shed light on their plight but the poor job security that immigrants generally face in Finland.
While berry pickers are seasonal workers that come from Thailand, their issues reveal a much serious problem in Finland for immigrants that hasn’t been addressed effectively.
We all know that immigrant unemployment in Finland is 2-3 times higher than the national average. According to the latest figures by Statistics Finland, the unemployment rate in July was 6.6%. Immigrant unemployment in 2011 was 21.7%. according to the Finnish Immigration Service, citing employment figures.
Finding a permanent job in Finland with the same security that most Finns enjoy is quite a challenge for many immigrants who live in this country. If you are qualified and have good language skills, there is a risk that it will take much longer to get ahead in your career than if you were a white Finn.
If there is little acceptance of immigrants among some Finns, certainly employers will take advantage of the situation for their benefit. Employers are not the only culprits but unions, regulators and even immigrants in some cases are to blame for the present situation.
I met an immigrant who had been in this country for well over 10 years and was returning back to her home country. It’s not a novel story.
“I’ve had it with Finland,” the person said. “I’ve tried everything here but never got permanent employment. Who’s going to pay my retirement?”
Drawing on considerable experience in the field of migrant worker abuse, I can only point out that the facts in this latest case do not add up. It has been argued that the berry pickers were self-employed, but this is manifestly inconsistent with the concrete circumstances of their work. It also suggests that a person from Thailand can simply turn up at the Finnish Embassy in Bangkok and secure a Schengen visa merely by declaring the intention to work as a sole trader in Finland.
The website of the embassy in question does not inspire total confidence in the technical abilities of its staff. I would not be at all surprised to find that the visa documentation includes third-party guarantees of employment that have not been shown to the applicants, or that the officials have made unsupported assumptions about the purpose of the applications. In the former case it is important that the lawyer now representing these workers has an opportunity to review the documentation, whereas in the latter case the question of maladministration must be investigated.