Union blames ministers for berry pickers' plight
TT/The Local · 12 Aug 2010, 19:11
Published: 12 Aug 2010 19:11 GMT+02:00
Changes to migration">immigration law mean that companies can hire in non-European workers if they deem it necessary. The new law replaces the previous system in which unions had a veto over the use of non-European workers.
“The government must accept its responsibility. They have written this law that has allowed companies to sign contracts without [union] scrutiny. Now the berry pickers are coming here and nobody is taking responsibility for them,” said LO chairwoman Wanja Lundby-Wedin.
Following previous complaints from berry pickers, they have this year been given the right to a minimum wage. But the foreign employment agencies that hire them are allowed to deduct travel, lodging and food costs from their wages, a practice that pickers say often leaves them in debt.
The plight of the workers is now exercising members of the governing parties, with Christian Democrat MP Lennart Sacrédeus submitting a question to Billström asking him how he plans to improve conditions in the berry picking industry.
Wanja Lundby-Wedin insists that removing the unions’ role has contributed to the problem:
“They have clearly been tempted here on false premises and it’s a big problem that the unions’ influence has been entirely done away with. I think the berry companies should take their responsibility and ensure that these berry pickers are given help to get home,” she said.