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Stranded Thai berry pickers on their way home

TT/Stuart Roberts · 28 Aug 2009, 10:23

Published: 28 Aug 2009 10:23 GMT+02:00

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After the berry pickers’ fates had come to light, help arrived from a number of sources, news agency TT reports. Luleå Council has arranged for buses so that the berry pickers can travel to Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport, from where flights will take them home to Thailand via Dubai, with tickets donated by a number of Thai authorities and companies.

“I have today ensured that everything has been arranged in the best way. I made contact with the Thai Embassy and they sent personnel to Luleå today, and we have worked through the situation together,” said Norrbotten’s County Governor Per-Ola Eriksson.

On Thursday the first buses travelled southeast via the berry pickers’ camp in Västerbotten, and then on to Arlanda.

The berry pickers were recruited by a staffing agency in Thailand that provides picking services to Swedish companies that purchase berries. The Thai staffing agency promises high incomes for those seeking their fortunes in the Swedish berry forests, but they do not guarantee any income for their employees.

When the pickers travelled the long journey from Thailand to Sweden this year, they faced tussocky forest conditions where berries were sparse. Even under ideal berry picking conditions, the pickers would have to pick considerable quantities of berries every day in order to come close earning the promised income, reports TT.

Story continues below…

“During the autumn I will take the initiative to have a meeting with local and regional berry purchasers to come to a solution so that a situation such as this does not repeat itself,” said Eriksson.

TT/Stuart Roberts (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:46 August 28, 2009 by olikEngelsk
I think it is disgraceful how these companies can recruit 3rd world workers and exploit them.

Leaving the state or charities to pick up the pieces...
13:50 August 28, 2009 by Caribbean guy/Swedish Gal
its called modern slavery exactly what the europeans did after slavery was abolished.It was reformated and renamed Indentured Labourers..
14:03 August 28, 2009 by Thebinary1
Ummm .... but the fault technically remains with "the Thai staffing agency" (I challenge the editor to name the agency), for being allowed to operate an extermely risky practice. The staffing agency receives their income from the Swedish companies, but they fail to pass "the appropriate" income to the workers.
14:56 August 28, 2009 by olikEngelsk
Modern version of slavery, and the old capitalist exploitation to boot. Absolutely.

'Technically' the Thai staffing agency is allowed by Swedish law to do this?

So much for enlightened Swedish practice.

I always thought Sweden had the most progressive systems.

Beginning to doubt this now.

UK allows all sorts of abuse, knowingly, for cheap labour and many here, (in UK) and I, think this stinks.

I always looked to Sweden for enlightened practices.

Doubting this now.

16:02 August 28, 2009 by peropaco

Sorry to hear you that you have been misinformed regarding the corrupt ways of the Swedes. Their calm and almost horse like quiet attitude is rather deceiving.
16:27 August 28, 2009 by justanotherexpat
Tragic that some people have lost their savings and there sure as hell is something fishy about the scumbags who organise this exploitation - but there's another aspect to this story that should be considered, although has not been reported.

Why are there so few berries this year?

Having lived in Norrland, I could testify to the veritable bounty every autumn of blueberries, growing justabouteverywhereyoulook......

What's different here? Were these poor Thais just taken to an area that was 'unluckily' sparse - or this symptomatic of a wider problem?
16:58 August 28, 2009 by Texrusso
The current on going World financial crises has also taken its toll on the berries industries... even the berries refuse to grow. LOL! Let them take it for what it is, at least they had a nice holiday in Sweden. It is just another international experience for the Thais. They should be pleased that they got some assistance to return home. There is risk in any venture you undertake. Suppose they had come here on a good berry season and had a good berry harvest, they would have been leaving home with some good cash. Its just pure bad luck for the berry season and nothing more. You cannot actually blame an agent for a poor berry harvest/season. It is a loose loose situation for all. Have a nice weekend there!!!
17:12 August 28, 2009 by boojiboy
There are less berries this yr because its been such a hot summer. Im not complaining if the thai get sent home i just started picking, im so desperate for some money.

Found a nice stash a week ago and im still on it, dosent look like anyone else has been there. Im the only brit the berry buyer has seen up here i reckon this yr, haha.
17:42 August 28, 2009 by GefleFrequentFlyer

You couldn't be more correct.

To continue about the berry pickers...

Lets face it. They are willing to work for slave-like wages/conditions by some jockey in Bangkok to take a extended holiday in a place they've never been before, probably visit some relatives on the way.
18:21 August 28, 2009 by Caribbean guy/Swedish Gal
Next year they should only send female pickers so if they have a bad berry season the swedish men that go hunt wives in thailand can do that here instead.

Thats what i call a win win situation hahaha!!!!!
18:28 August 28, 2009 by olikEngelsk

Me not misinformed.

You just don't agree with me.

I don't say any Swede is corrupt.

I say that the Swedish law allows this sort of thing to happen.

And the previous message (caribbean so + so) just makes me sick.

Sexism/racism in one sentence!

I say no more.
18:37 August 28, 2009 by Caribbean guy/Swedish Gal

Its the truth, deal with it my man

take a vacation to Gambia, Kenya Thailand to name a few countries and youde see what im talking about.

Google, Indentured Labourers and youde see europeans experimented on asain countries ( Japan India Congolese Chinese to name a few)to see who were the best for cotton fields and sugar plantations and the like..
18:46 August 28, 2009 by olikEngelsk
What is the truth?

Your version?

Me, I was married to a sweet Swede for many years and lived there for much of it.

I currently have a Filipino GF and know very well the situation in 3rd world countries.

I don't need uninformed lectures from anybody.
21:15 August 28, 2009 by Caribbean guy/Swedish Gal
last time i check MY caribbean history,my forefathers came from africa and india and were all enslaved and lied to by the British Potugese French Dutch and Spain Colonies.

Or maybe Christopher Columbus or Walter Raeigh and the likes never existed!

Or wait maybe its all a myth too
03:02 August 29, 2009 by La Figaro
Last time was Vietnamese, now its Thai berry pickers, what is going on, Sweden?

Why can't the swedish government or farmers source for other pickers without having to get workers from so far away. For are unemployed people in Sweden, there are students, simply place adverts around and I'm sure they can get enough workers. This is shameful
08:48 August 29, 2009 by hilt_m
it's a c#"p job that no one wants to do, in other more traveled countries it normally falls to backpackers on working visa's to do it.
08:31 August 30, 2009 by henry.bn
Why can't the Swedes pick their own blueberries? With all the reports of unemployed youth, one might have thought they would have been keen to do it?

Hop-picking used to be done by poor London families who got free accommodation and made for a holiday on the open air. It was popular but came to an end when picking machines were introduced in the 1960s.

I suspect that the Swedish tax and workers' insurance system has something to do with it. Labour costs must amount to at least double the take home pay. The country needs tax reform before it is ruined.
20:15 August 30, 2009 by insect
Caribean guy/Swedish gal

You are talking badly about people from Thailand, Kenya, Gambia etc. Im sure you have not been anywhere near Africa so you have absolutely no idea of what you are talking about.

What about you? Did your Swedish gal come to the Caribean to look for you or did you come to Sweden to pick berries then met her here. Cmon. Classical case of a pot calling a kettle black!
23:21 August 30, 2009 by Caribbean guy/Swedish Gal
Met my GF in Canada and i have been to many more African countries including the ones you mentioned!

We can all live in denial but history speaks for itself.

Pot calling a kettle black???

What a joke hahaha :)
09:16 August 31, 2009 by magic1964
So companies have to import workers and abuse them to make benefits on top of huge taxes so the state can pay local lazy buggers living on welfare....it´s a vicious circle...
18:45 August 31, 2009 by insect
Caribean guy/Swedish gal

What history is this you keep going on about. Kindly spell it out for us so we can end this conversation (not argument).

So your case is that you are from the Caribean, went to Canada to pick berries and met a Swedish gal. How intercontinental for you! Kudos

PS: Travelling to many African countries does not make you an expert on Africa.
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