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Vietnamese workers in north-south berry dispute

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 14 Aug 2009, 11:03

Published: 14 Aug 2009 11:03 GMT+02:00

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"They were unhappy at the remuneration and wanted to stop picking. But not all. The seventeen who came from south Vietnam wanted to continue to work. It seems that they had been locked up by the north Vietnamese," Mats Persson told the newspaper.

Several police units, interpreters and Stockholm embassy staff have been obliged to travel to the small rural community of Branäs in Värmland to mediate in the conflict between the groups of Vietnamese and their employers.

The Vietnamese migrant workers are spending the summer working to pick berries and many have taken out loans on their houses and borrowed money from friends and family in order to make the trip to Sweden.

Around 120 of the workers went out on strike on Tuesday complaining that it was impossible for them to pick sufficient berries to pay for their trip and earn enough money.

"We were told we would be able to pick between 60 and 120 kilogrammes of berries per day. But this is impossible, at best we can manage 10-30 kilogrammes," one of the striking workers, Le Thi Hong, told the newspaper.

The workers are employed by Vietnamese recruitment firm TTLC and are organized in Sweden by Rabema service. The workers report that they have forked out up to 15,000 kronor ($2,000) to fund their two month stay in addition to the 9,000 kronor they pay in board and lodging.

In return they have been paid 14 kronor per kilo.

While some of the workers are protesting against the employment conditions it seems that others, keen to work, are directing their ire towards their countrymen.

Groups of south Vietnamese workers have had to move to an alternative, secret location under police escort after refusing to join the strike.

Story continues below…

"The north Vietnamese have been so threatening that we can not have them in the same place," Svante Vanbert for Rabema explained.

The company has now given the workers an ultimatum - "work hard, and we will help you to find enough berries, or go home."

Rabema reported on Thursday evening that five of the striking workers have elected to make the journey home while the other 115 will resume work on Friday.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

18:54 August 14, 2009 by La Figaro
Vietnam?! I think Vietnam is just too far for people to come from just for two months farm work but the amount they were assured to earn, is obviously so high that it was worth investing 22000 kronor & two months of their life but at the current rate, they can never recover the money they invested.

They were lied to and who is to blame, the farmers they work for, TTLC or Rabema AB? This is capitalism in its worst form and it is here that unscrupulous people manifest the most. I really feel for the workers and I hope things will work out for them.
19:15 August 14, 2009 by DamnImmigrant
I can see this kind of crap happening in Dubai, or any wealthy 3rd world country - but how in the hell does it happen here in Sweden?
21:34 August 14, 2009 by eZee.se

And sad for the poor workers, i hope the govt comes down hard on the people who are trying to exploit these folk. Unlikely as this is Sweden... but one can hope.
22:05 August 14, 2009 by Eurostan
reklam and berry picking in the summer are school childrens holiday job to earn pocket money. how people from vietnam come to sweden to do those jobs. actually vietnam people are quite hard working people. if possible they can use those hard work in another way or employers or government give them money to go back to their country and dont allow next time.

i heard that there are lot of unemployed youngsters in sweden.

why dont they do that jobs.
23:51 August 14, 2009 by odinmp5
this "agencys", usually are full of bs. they exist all over the 3rd world and they lure workers on the promise of making 3 times what they make in their local comunities. 90% its just a hoax , tha only convers tarveling expenses, 5 % of the time the enslave people and dont pay.. and the other 5% are legit.

why in the hell is sweden allowing this?

if they wnat to help the vietnamese, why dont they do it thru funding of local projects in vietnam.?
02:16 August 15, 2009 by Greg in Canada
Isn't it interesting that it's only the north Vietnam workers that are complaining?
17:19 August 15, 2009 by PerKurowski
Sweden help to empower the migrant workers with a chair at the World Bank's Executive Directors Board & representation at UN - http://bit.ly/gbEE8
11:00 August 16, 2009 by vuconghoan
It is really unbelievable, especially it is happening in Sweden. Why bring our people here and treat them like slaves. Help them to go home and throw the scammers from Rabema AB into the prison. What the shame for Sweden!
20:20 August 17, 2009 by Mzungu

Why bring them in the first instance?

Plenty of unemployed drawing A-Kassa,get them working....
18:18 August 18, 2009 by La Figaro

There are a lot of unemployed people in Sweden, a lot are claiming benefits. Isn't there a way they can do some of these jobs? Secondly, I think other european countries can may be able to provide some workers with their welfare/rights well looked after.
11:17 August 28, 2009 by saleemaawan
I think, Swedish Government should not issue work permits untill they are not sure about employers. In case someone has work permit then he/she must be treated equally. And Government has to help them. Thanks
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