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Hungry berry pickers shoot birds for food

Paul O'Mahony · 2 Aug 2010, 16:30

Published: 02 Aug 2010 16:30 GMT+02:00

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Police have warned that tensions among the 300 guest workers risk spiralling out of control as they wait for the barren surrounding forests to yield their harvest of berries.

After two weeks in Sweden the group now lacks food and money, while the berry pickers are each expected to pay 145 kronor per day ($20) for their lodgings in a youth hostel in the village in northern Dalarna. Members of the group have made repeated forays into the woods only to find that the berries have not yet ripened.

The berry pickers also claim that a contract they are being asked to sign if they are to be entitled to a residence permit does not correspond with a contract they signed in Vietnam prior to making their way to Dalarna.

The new contract, which has been reviewed by Dalarnas Tidningar, shows that they are expected to pick 90 kilos of lingonberries, or 50 kilos of blueberries, or 20 kilos of cloudberries per day if they are to be entitled to their wages.

The contract also obliges the berry pickers to pay the equivalent of 16,000 kronor each for costs incurred by their Vietnamese recruitment company for travel, visas and other outlays. The workers are promised a basic monthly wage of 17,730 kronor if they meet the terms of the contract with the opportunity to earn a higher amount if they pick more berries than the stipulated minimum.

The contract is alleged to originate from the recruitment company’s partner berry firm in Sweden, but Dalarnas Tidningar found that the phone number provided was not currently in service.

Story continues below…

Police officers who paid a visit to the berry pickers’ camp said the situation risked turning violent if the workers were unable to earn money soon.

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.com)

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Your comments about this article

17:05 August 2, 2010 by Audrian
I guess it is a case of taking advantage of the ignorance of workers. They probably do not have trade union; they simply trusted the employer. What kind of legal protection do they have?

I do not see why workers should pay for the cost of the risk the capitalist has decided to take. Profit is the major reason why a capitalist take risk.

I have never heard of this arrangment?
17:35 August 2, 2010 by Beavis
This sends out a clear message, make sure you DONT buy Swedish strawberries etc. They are NOT better and the Belgian/Dutch ones were picked by workers who were paid a proper minumum wage. Shame on you Sweden for allowing exploitation of workers like this on your on soil.
17:51 August 2, 2010 by Antonioparco
Nobody forced them to come here. They were dreaming of getting rich. They should find out more before agreeing to sign the contract. I smell leftist comments from Audrian and Beavis. Don't worry neither am I rightist nor capitalist. Beavis, it has nothing to do with Swedish strawberries, you moron.
17:52 August 2, 2010 by Streja
Beavis, as you might already know, strawberries do not grow in the forest. They have to be grown and are not usually picked by Vietnamese pickers.

Avoid buying blueberry, lingon or cloudberry products. That would be better if you think a boycot is good.
17:58 August 2, 2010 by theibmsstate2000
swedes has problem why foreigners come to sweden ,they don't accept foreigners no professional even they don't accept EU ppl. @antonionparco employer invited those people, and with strawberry picking they will be rich whats that money 1 crate 50 sek what is this.if employer will invite the Vietnamese than no swede will work to pick the strawberry. u think from 50 sek they will be rich its impossible.the employer should not invite if you dont accept foreigners.
18:01 August 2, 2010 by Swedesmith
How about getting some of the people on social welfare and sending them up to pick the berries...earn a little of their own keep.
18:10 August 2, 2010 by theibmsstate2000
lol wats welfare in sweden

concentrate on the topic
18:29 August 2, 2010 by avatar
why not send these poor Vietnamese workers up north where a city council is inviting Russian workers!!!
19:00 August 2, 2010 by theibmsstate2000
in 1980s sweden was also poor country than 50% swede went to usa for money. lol hahahahahah good point
21:48 August 2, 2010 by voiceofreason
I think they just want to eat the birds because they like it.

Vietnamese have one of the most varied diets in the world, courtesy of the Vietnam war. Snakes, snails, worms are all part of the menu.
21:58 August 2, 2010 by here for the summer

Not sure why you say to Swedesmith to stay on subject and his suggesting that unemployed people in Sweden be motivated to pick berries as a job instead of bringing people from Vietnam is actually pretty good. Goes for all the the western economies with high unemployment much better to use our own workers than import workers
22:49 August 2, 2010 by kaze
those gits nick all the berries so normal people can't go berry picking.

Starvation is a bit harsh but I'm glad they're suffering.
23:49 August 2, 2010 by shaon72
I think some of broker are making a lot of money out it. Lot of worker came from Bangladesh also. The broker who import the worker from Bangladesh and vietnam they done a lot of money. Those people who paid lot of money to see the dream that when they will come to Sweden and earn a lot of money and some how they will try to escape from here. It's just a gambling of broker or some of travel agency. Some how the travel agency will avoid the law but they made a lot money from this famous berry pickers. Unfortunatly our poor people will going to lose lot of money.Thanks.
00:00 August 3, 2010 by Mr Gee

"Nobody forced them to come here."

True - but we don't know their situation back home. In reality it's not unlikely that their options are extremely limited so I wish them luck in at least trying.

"They were dreaming of getting rich."

If you say so, but personally I doubt it.
00:44 August 3, 2010 by Beavis
@Antonioparco you muppet! Leftists dont agree to minimum wages, they assume that the unions are strong enough that it is not needed (as is the case in Sweden) True in this particular case it was lingon and cloud berries but its the same story when it comes to strawberries. This is a rather simple case of someone exploiting people and because there is no minimum wage laws to protect this. So if your living in Veitnam Antonioparco and your take home pay a week is 10kr and someone comes and offers you a job making 50 times that, youd say no?? Oh youd go research it on the web,make some calls, take a holiday first? Good luck trying to do that with your 10kr a week salary!
05:37 August 3, 2010 by shiraz
This is a case in point for the cause of automation. It is very easy to automate berry picking and it can be done more hygienically, efficiently, cheaply than importing third world laborers (who then end up damaging the fauna/ flora and ecological system of the country even more). If one wants to be charitable one may want to engage them in ways other than involving manual labor. There are ways of getting a country to be prosperous without importing the poor. With prosperity their unwieldy population growth is likely to decline and they are likely to be happier and will abstain from killing birds and animals for food and may restrict their palate. May mercy and blessings find them.
08:17 August 3, 2010 by Marko2010S
@Beavis #2

"make sure you DONT buy Swedish strawberries"

I do respect your manners and principles for saying that. But I have a question for you if you may allow me to throw it here.

Based on the same principle of not buying Swedish strawberries, we shouldn't buy (I personally don't) any fruits or vegetables that come from satanic state "Israel". Simply because they take the water away from poor Palestinian babies and use it for their own interests. Also, we shouldn't buy any product from the US, simply because all these products are taxed and the American taxes money goes as support for military and cost of bullets that end up in a poor kid's skull from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan or Somalia.

Also, we shouldn't buy anything from Africa since quite many of them use children as soldiers. Same applies for the French products since are known by their dirty and despicable habit of labeling all the African products of their previous colonies as French products.

Of course, the list never ends...

The bottom line is, life has been never fair to anyone and the entire world is corrupted. However, I think that Sweden is one of the best among the corrupted nations (In other words, the least corrupted).
08:34 August 3, 2010 by izbz
@Mr Gee

True , nobody ask them to come but have you been to Vietnam? A ricksaw peddler earns US1 for about 2 hrs cycling around town with tourist. (ie if there is tourist booking his ricksaw) Carrying Vietnamese, they earn even less.

Of course they want to make it rich , even a diskare lön in Sweden can be consider lots of money in Vietnam . For your info, when I was there in'96, US100 is 1,100,000 vietnamese dongs. Check the present exchange rate if u want to know more.
09:38 August 3, 2010 by salalah
It is better not to accept berry pickers from Asia - it is too far away - Have the Swedish government employees pick the berries!
09:38 August 3, 2010 by americanska
in a normal year this is a good deal for those people. you can't have trade unions everywhere - thank goodness.

i'm guessing the berry company doesn't even own this land and they just send these poeple to pick on other's land. otherwise they would just farm them.

@ audrian - i don't have much sympathy for either party. but for the company to pay then a wage no matter how many berries are picked wouldn't be possible. I suppose their risk in this case is that they depend on wild berried for their produce.
10:24 August 3, 2010 by NataBee

This is a little wandering off the topic, but seriously, EVERYONE eats crazy things during wars due to starvation. I am Vietnamese, and we CERTAINLY do not have snakes, worms, snails or other disgusting creatures in our daily menu. Jeez, I hate it when people talk about Vietnam as if it's still like "Apocalypse Now". :|

It is true that nobody asks them to go. But Vietnam is a small country with huge population, plus our country is also mechanizing everything and growing drastically, which requires skilled workers only.

Therefore numbers of general laborers are left unemployed. And even though they have been warned about extreme conditions of working abroad, they still want to go, well yes, because they believe "overseas" means "more chances", which is extremely ill perceived.
10:30 August 3, 2010 by Puffin
Unfortunately these guys have fallen victim to one of the many scam companies that prey on overseas workers

- they 'earn' 17K+ is they can pick 90kg berries average per day for 30 days - unrealistic

- then they have to repay 16K in expenses - leaving around 1.5 K for a month's work

- the employer has abandoned the workers with no money and no food in Särna

- mostly the guys on these contracts end up owing the company money

- usually the local community - and this is not a rich place - end up caring for these people and providing food

However the companies rely on most people not realise they are being scammed


Surely you don't think that strawberries grow in the forrest???

What you need to boycott is Lignon/Blåbär sylt - this is what these people were employed to pick
12:25 August 3, 2010 by Beavis
Spot on NataBee and Puffin.. and no I dont think strawberries grow in the forest!:) What I meant was not this individual case in Dalarna, it also happend with the strawberry pickers last year.

I dont think boycotting will do any good, as the fruits just rotting away in storage in the supermarkets!

Just time for Sweden to step into the 20th century and intoduce a realistic minimum wage (not too high and not too low) to stop the exploitation of people across the board.
12:34 August 3, 2010 by Audrian
Reply to Antonparco (# 3) and Americanska (#20)

@ # 3: Trade union is part and parcel of capitalism. It came about for restraining property owners from going "mad" - workers' created to defend themselves against the excesses of capitalism. The argument I presented for the aplication of existing law is not a leftistist propaganda!

@ 20: The company has to pay a living wage even when it faced bankruptcy. This is the law. If the owner is incapable of paying a living wage, he/she will have to declare bankrupt and close, and return the workers back home. A similar situation arose in the Gulf states, after the end of the business boom, and the government was forced to settle it. Bankrupt companies ran out of the country, leaving workers stranded. Thanks to international presuure, the governments intervened to compensate and pay for air tickets of stranded workers.

It appears that this company is leaving the mess for the Swedish government to clean, using tax money. There is no other alternative.
12:59 August 3, 2010 by theibmsstate2000
the farmers are becoming more rich and strawberry pickers get nothing 50sek per crate its nothing, VOLVO and SAAB has been sold if swedes are capable get back thier industry.day by day losing their economy, even some americans and european wanted to open bank account in stockholm bt bank didnt accept american passport.swede dont accept foreigners.
13:11 August 3, 2010 by La Figaro

Why in God's name does Sweden continue to allow this sort of crap to happen? It is a well known fact that agents/brokers/fraudsters (call them whatever you want) deceive workers by obtaining large sums of money with the promise of recouping that while in Sweden. Their dream usually doesn't materialise and you wonder what the swedish authorities are doing about it.


During my student days in Sweden, I picked berries and some swedish kids that picked it with us were paid two and a half times our pay rate, so much for equality. Sweden is complaining about foreigners yet she issues visas to foreign temporary workers (some may remain) and there are many unemployed people, many students (both foreign & local) that can be enticed to such jobs. Sweden, please wake up.
17:36 August 3, 2010 by cathk
at Marko2010S

please dont group africa as though it is one country, while many countries in africa may have situations in which rebel groups are making use of child soldiers, this is not the case and has never been the case in most of africa. otherwise I agree with your line of thought, and I personally try not to ever buy Isreali products, but I must say these days you can hardly trust the country of origin on so many products.

and back to the topic I completely agree with the fact that sweden currently has a large number of people sitting unemployed, why are these people who aready have residency or citizenship in sweden being offered these jobs. why is the swedish government allowing more work permits for this sort of work when there are plenty of capable ppl in sweden.
10:06 August 4, 2010 by Puffin
@ Beavis

Actually Beavis there is a minimum wage for foreign berry pickers - new rules mean that they have to have contracts for salalries of over 16,300 kr/month to be granted a visa by Migrationsverket.

However the latest scam is to charge 10s of 1000s of 'expenses' against these salaries - the people up in Särna are being charged:

- travel

- lodging

- petrol cost to get to the forest

- food

- 'administrative expenses'

Which means by the time that these are paid off the pickers will by lucky to make 10kr per hour - which is why few in Sweden want the work

The other point is that people in Sweden are someone harder to scam - the people from Vietnam do not get paid until they return to Vietnam......

I think they will be lucky to be paid at all

All the evidence is that this is a fake company out to scam foreign workers - the contact details and phone numbers for the company that employed them are fake
10:12 August 4, 2010 by salalah
I can't believe that this happens over and over again, every year...
17:35 August 6, 2010 by Jim__in_Vietnam
I am a Yank who has lived and worked in Vietnam for the past ten years. I cannot believe that a liberal nation such as Sweden has such a callous disregard for the welfare of its guest workers. Shame on you!

These Viets are simple, poor folk who have borrowed money to pay some slimeball jobs broker to arrange for their transport, Swedish visa, etc. Now, these hapless souls find themselves stranded in a distant land, betrayed and hungry. These Viets have come to Sweden to work hard so they can have a little money to send to their families. Their idea of "rich" is earning more than $1 a day.

The Swedish government must accept its responsibility and assist these poor Viets. Sweden issued visas to them, did it not? If the government were run by intelligent adults instead of leftist moonbats it would have required the jobs broker to post a bond to cover any expenses incurred while assisting guest workers.But it appears that the Swedish government is too concerned about ensuring there are sufficient lingon berries for its selfish citizens to smear on their pancakes at breakfast.

That a so-call progressive people such as you Swedes would turn your backs on the poorest of the poor betrays your true nature. You are Godless, self-centered elitists. Small wonder the world has so little respect for you!
10:48 August 7, 2010 by Argentina84
@ Jim__in_Vietnam: I agree with most of what you have said. It is shameful that most people cannot understand the difficult situation these workers are facing.
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