Elk hunts and ‘paparazzi’ threaten berry pickers

A firm in northern Sweden has claimed in a letter to the Work Environment Authority (Arbetsmiljöverket) that its berry pickers face a slew of dangers including poisonous mushrooms, elk hunters, monotony, and "paparazzi-style" journalists.

Berry firm Norrskensbär from Skellefteå has in its letter identified traffic accidents involving elk and slippery roads as the most common causes of work related accidents for their berry pickers, but also names a further raft of possible dangers to health and safety.

Among them are: sharp branches or stones, alone in the forest (sic), elk hunting, aggressive media, superstition, poisonous mushrooms, bad mobile phone signal, and standing in a monotone position.

“Aggressive media” are classified as a “high risk” and the firm describes journalist attempts to approach the pickers as “almost like paparazzi”. The firm details a new policy for 2010 that approaches from the media will be handled through camp leaders.

There has been significant coverage in the national media in recent weeks regarding the pay and working conditions of berry pickers, most of whom are seasonal immigrant workers who pay substantial amounts of money to come to Sweden from south-east Asia.

Much of the focus has been on pay and has centred around allegations that berries are in short supply and thus workers are unable to earn the sums required to fund their trip and return home with money in their pockets.

New regulations were introduced in 2009 to ensure that the berry pickers were guaranteed a minimum wage but according to some media reports many of the workers then sign a second contract waiving their right and instead receive payment for berries picked.

Union representatives have expressed concern that the pickers are open to exploitation and suggest that many are unaware of what they are signing.

“Now that the season has started we are starting to hear from pickers reports of double contracts. It is of course outrageous as it is in breach of the collective agreement,” Inga-Britt Svensson at union Kommunal told the Dagens Nyheter daily.

The Local’s attempts to contact Norrskensbär on Thursday morning have been unsuccessful.

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A Touch of Scandinavia: Reindeer in the kitchen

Scandinavian style is a seamless blend of tradition and modernity, respecting the old but adding just the right amount of cool. Viktoria Månström has it down to a fine art, and has quickly become a leading Scandinavian designer.

A Touch of Scandinavia: Reindeer in the kitchen
Designer Viktoria Månström and one of her Anna Viktoria products.

Reindeer and elk play beloved roles Swedish culture and heritage. And while taking them into your home may sound a bit extreme, Viktoria Månström, the designer behind Swedish home décor brand Anna Viktoria, has made it possible.

”Everything I design has a Scandinavian touch and a modern design built upon Swedish tradition,” Månström says. “I take the past and traditions of Sweden and bring them into the present.”

In other words, Månström designs coffee cups, kitchen trays, bowls, bottle openers, kitchen towels, key rings, and everything else you could possibly want to help bring a bit of Sweden into your home. 

And they’re covered in modern Swedish art, of course.

“I actually started with the Dala horse. I come from Dalarna so it felt like the right place to begin.”

While the Dala horse is a classic Swedish symbol, Månström’s version is a perfect example of contemporary Scandinavian design – clean, simple, modern and unique, mixing colours and patterns in an innovative way without looking too “busy”.

ou can buy Anna Viktoria's striped Dala horse here at The Local Brands

Månström’s knack for design was hardly unexpected.

“It’s been inside me for a very long time,” Månström tells The Local. “My grandmother made tapestries and my grandfather was a carpenter, so the tradition of craftwork was always there. They gave me a passion for colour and design. It came naturally.”

The company Anna Viktoria was born after Månström did a few designs for a friend. She then started participating in fairs and visiting tourist agencies, where she discovered the seed of a market for exactly what she was making: tradition meets modern design.

“It was tough at first,” Månström recalls. “I was a little ahead of my time, I think. But once things got going, they really got going.”

lick here to shop for items from Anna Viktoria

Now living in Jämtland in western Sweden, Månström has become a favourite of home decorators across the country, featuring in various home magazines and publications. She sells her products under the name “A Touch of Scandinavia” – and everything is both practical and chic.

”My products are truly Scandinavian; products that convey Sweden. And they also last. They’re items you can really use in everyday life.”

Purchase Anna Viktoria products at The Local Brands