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Berry pickers in new strike in northern Sweden

TT/The Local · 10 Aug 2010, 10:56

Published: 10 Aug 2010 10:56 GMT+02:00

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The 50 berry pickers complain that they believed that they were to pick berries in plantations and not in woodland.

"They have sat down in protest and have set up banners declaring SOS Vietnam," Magnus Haglund at Nordmaling municipality to the news agency TT.

The strike action is not yet become an issue for the municipality, said Haglund, who does not know why the berry pickers are striking.

Berry purchaser Kamala Karlsson, who has signed a contract with the Vietnamese recruitment firm which has employed the berry pickers, is disappointed.

"They think that they can come to Sweden and protest and not pick any berries, that is what has happened," said Kamala Karlsson.

The Local has previously reported that over 100 Chinese berry pickers went on a 15-kilometre overnight march from Långsjöby outside of Storuman on Thursday to protest their salaries and conditions.

Thousands of seasonal workers from Asia, most of them from Thailand, come to Sweden each summer mainly to pick wild berries in the north under sometimes

difficult working conditions.

Story continues below…

After a disastrous season last year sent many of the foreign berry pickers home weighed down by debt instead of profits, they have this year for the first time been provided with contracts guaranteeing them a monthly wage of at least 16,372 kronor ($2,321).

Some Swedish unions have however said that the minimum salary is insufficient, producing evidence that in some cases it is hardly enough to cover the money the workers have to shell out for things like plane tickets, housing and car rental.

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:36 August 10, 2010 by Audrian
I find Karlsson statment contradictory and unfortunate. Probably the view of the unions is more honorable than the uncaring employer.
12:57 August 10, 2010 by aaww
berries gonna be expensive this year
13:05 August 10, 2010 by tuerd1982
The problem here with these foreign berry pickers is, they all thought the berry land is similar to their homeland. So, they think it is not difficult to pick 40-80 Kg. The employer also not good. They should explain in the contract these situation in the very beginning before sign. In my opinion, both side made a mistake, but the employer did made bigger.
13:21 August 10, 2010 by kenny8076
WWWHHAAAATTTTT? PAHAHAHA $2,321 a month to pick berries? thats $28,000 a year!!! i was making $1500(about $980 after taxes and union fee) a month working at IAD airport in D.C. and i guarantee the working conditions were worse!! 105 degree summer days and 15 degree winter days. Rain, hail, heat...... it didnt matter, at the end of the day i got my $60 and went home!! im in Karstad and dieing for a job. I would do ANYTHING for one of these contracts!! I will even do it for $1800 month!!! and smile everyday!!!
13:37 August 10, 2010 by theibmsstate2000
so they want to go to thier home country, hahaha sweden is dream land. china is dream land who bought volvo and can buy more and more.

dont think sweden is dream land and ppl will be millionaire.nothing in sweden,as i am IT professional since 1 year i have not get no job in sweden even though they dont call you for the interview.even thier own ppl if you see IT technician job for example own ppl education is high school and he is IT technician .technician cannt do research he is only technicain. here is sweden very foreign qualified bt they give preference to the refugee
14:23 August 10, 2010 by stupr
@ theibmsstate2000

I'm sorry but do you speak Swedish? A lot of people are very quick to dismiss Sweden when they come here and fail to get work within their chosen profession, however if you do not speak fluent Swedish, and want to work for a Swedish company I think it is fair that you will have difficulties in finding work.
14:40 August 10, 2010 by chobik

ppl cann't just come and get in a different culture. You should show respect to the local culture in the first place. If ur employers and customers cann't even communicate with u in a convinient way, how could they expect and trust your profession and loyalty.
14:55 August 10, 2010 by summo
The suprising thing, or perhaps it shouldn't be is the fact that union thinks wages should cover flight costs etc. If they paid a bit more I would imagine that locals and students would take up the work. Would save a lot of hassle and money paid out to recruiters. It is a good wage for unskilled work, even if it is clealy hard graft, getting bitten all day.
14:59 August 10, 2010 by Puffin

Perhaps you should read the last sentence again

"the minimum salary is insufficient, producing evidence that in some cases it is hardly enough to cover the money the workers have to shell out for things like plane tickets, housing and car rental."

- most of these workers are being charged around 16,000 SEK in expenses that they must pay back to the employer - the press in Dalarna got hold of a contract and this was the amount of deductions

- the salary is not guaranteed either - these are productivty contracts - you must pick the 'standard' amount to earn 16K per month - the standard in the contract seen by Dalarnas Tidning was 90kg of blueberries - per day! I don't know if you have ever picked the tiny woodland blueberries but 90kg per day is insance

These guys will end up in debt - the contracts are a scam - but there are still gullible people who believe you net paid 16,000SEK for picking bluberries


This is because the employers have abolutely no intention of paying anything near 16K - they intend to pay 1-2K - How many students do you knoe who will work for 300SEK ($25) per week? - the contract seen by the media last week was for 17,000SEK and decidctions were 16,000

One of the big scams this year is that the berry companies have hired abandoned school buildings

they pay peanuts to rent these buildings (maybe 10000 max as not all have fire certificates) - however they 'charge' hotel rates of 150kr per day (in the contract the newspaper say) or about 5000 per month - so for the group of 200 on strike - they get to withhold 1million in salary
15:36 August 10, 2010 by hjoian
Disgusting abuse of forighn workers !! I think the workers have all been misled , as usual , no one will be held responsible.
16:05 August 10, 2010 by kenny8076
Puffin i am confused....... it says

"been provided with contracts guaranteeing them a monthly wage of at least 16,372 kronor ($2,321)."

Where i come from the word "guarantee" and "contract" mean EVERYTHING.

So your saying when an immigrant signs a contract in Sweden GUARENTEEING certain benefits,wages, and rights, that the employer has "no intentions of paying it" is allowed and not a breach of contract?

If i had my contract broken i wouldn't be striking i would be in court.

i am sure there are a lot of loop holes for the benefit of the employer but why? and why is it allowed?
16:30 August 10, 2010 by hpunlimited
Doesn't Sweden have unemployed people that can pick berries instead? someone should be happy with 16.000sek a month if you have no job? no? or are both swedes and refugees in this country to lazy?

Swedish A-kassan has 200.000 people that can pick berries instead imo.

I think it is easier for people here just to sit at home and play on the playstation and lift benefits.
00:41 August 11, 2010 by thors
All items from china must be real then.
09:26 August 11, 2010 by LeoKinmann

Of course the contract must says that you get the minimum wage, and you are GUARANTEED to get this money. Somewhere else on this contract it also says that you have to pay some fee to the employer in order to get this contract. This fee consists of the flight ticket, food and loungding, which is like 90% of the salary you get, effectively reducing your salary to a fraction of the written sum. The employers were counting on that. In the end they paid next to nothing to each berry picker. breaching contract is not allowed in Sweden. However, the berry pickers are not properly informed of the working condition. And most of these workers tend to be uneducated. If they knew how to bring the case to the court in Sweden or Vietnamn, then they would definitely do it. The only reason this kind of scam has gone unnoticed for so long is because nobody stood up against it. My speculations is that when the berry pickers from last year went home with massive debt instead of profit, they told their countrymen about what happened here. The berry pickers this year have become much more vigilant.

On a side note, you can't pick berry all year long. The harvesting season usually lasts little over a month.
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