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Tougher rules to protect Sweden's berry pickers

The Local/rm · 8 Apr 2011, 14:11

Published: 08 Apr 2011 14:11 GMT+02:00

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The reason for the change is to improve working conditions and clarify the responsibilities of Swedish employers who seek the services of migrant labourers to help with the berry harvest.

“It is not acceptable that people come to Sweden for work and then become exploited. An individual´s right to reasonable conditions must prevail over any special interests,” Jonas Lindgren, Head of Division at The Swedish Migration Board said in a statement.

After several years of scandals involving guest workers imported to Sweden to pick berries in the north of the country the situation came to a head after a disastrous season in 2009, with many berry pickers heading home weighed down by debt instead of profits.

In 2010 the pickers were for the first time provided with contracts guaranteeing them a monthly wage of at least 16,372 kronor ($2,321).

But unions warned that the minimum salary was insufficient, pointing out that it in some cases it was hardly enough to cover the plane tickets, housing and car rental.

In 2010, many berry pickers again found themselves in quite a jam after harvests proved disappointing and the season was characterised by protests and scandals.

In August, Vietnamese guest workers staged two demonstrations against their working conditions and there were reports of ravenous berry pickers shooting wild fowl for food.

In October the press reported that 135 berry pickers had been forced to return to Thailand empty handed after the owners of their employer allegedly emptied the firm of cash and fled.

“The most important thing is that we together with other involved authorities and organizations do what we can so that last year´s situation will not be repeated,” said Lindgren.

New guidelines for the employers will mean that berry pickers can only be hired by a foreign company that has an affiliate in Sweden.

It is this Swedish affiliate company which will be held responsible for following the work conditions in the contracts.

Story continues below…

Further, the company has to be able to prove that they can pay the berry pickers’ salaries even if the harvest is poor.

They must also show that they have informed the pickers both of what kind of job they will be carrying out and of the work conditions involved.

The Local/rm (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:54 April 8, 2011 by Jim__in_Vietnam
Bravo, Sweden! These foreign workers are poor country folk who have to deal with scammers and corrupt officials in their home countries. Let their work experience in the West demonstrate to them that there IS a better, more just way. When they return home they will be wiser, and demand fair treatment.
16:12 April 8, 2011 by Mzungu
Why ever would Sweden require"guest" workers at any rate, when a high percentage of Swedes are unemploye, drawing A Kassa?

*get them picking*
17:09 April 8, 2011 by uunbeliever
What kind of idiot living in Sweden would pay for any sort of berry in the summer? Here's a hint...they grow in the woods, and allmänsrätt protects your right to go get 'em!!!
17:14 April 8, 2011 by Tanskalainen
I need some dingleberries picked.
04:15 April 9, 2011 by Swedesmith
Don't hire Edward Scissorhands, then.
11:23 April 9, 2011 by calebian22
How about using those people drawing social assistance nstead of importing seasonal workers. If society is paying for them, they should give something back.
13:06 April 9, 2011 by salalah
The law will still be insufficient, since companies can circumvent this by having separate, secondary contracts with the pickers. Some pickers plan to come here just to be able to apply for asylum. In my opinion, this is a shady business, which should be banned. The employers should deposit the workers' salaries in escrow with the government, so that they cannot escape from paying. The workers are charged about SEK 4000 a head by these "Companies" for administrative fees (Read: Scammed). In their countries it is a whole year's salary. But for these companies which bring about 300 workers, it is a nice profit of about a million SEK which they get whether there are berries in the forest or not. Shame on these ruthless people!!!
11:46 April 10, 2011 by charubun pananon
There are also many beggars and poor people in Sweden. We should also push them to work for berrypicking.
14:57 April 10, 2011 by chemist007
@charubun pananon

good idea
19:50 April 10, 2011 by Nemesis
This is a perverted disgrace.

There is thousands unemployed in Sweden. There is no excuse for importing labour from outside the EU.

This is purely to exploit, nothing else.

Sweden needs a minimum wage now and it needs to be enforced by jail terms for employers breaking that law.
21:58 April 10, 2011 by Kina_observer
I want the summer picking job......where can i find the hiring information?
22:13 April 10, 2011 by salalah

Google "Shady companies in the Swedish forests". Be prepared to bring a tent and lots of canned food in case there are no berries; otherwise you will be charged for food and living quarters if you choose to stay in the buildings provided by the company, even if there are no berries!!!

There are 2 toilets per 70 people in those houses and you sleep on the floor!!!

Do not pay any company in China to bring you here!!!

It you want to come to Sweden, come here on vacation...at least you will have a nice time with your money!!!
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