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'Lazy' Romanian berry pickers in wage protest

The Local/pvs · 25 Aug 2011, 10:02

Published: 25 Aug 2011 10:02 GMT+02:00

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The dispute centres around pay and conditions with the group of around 100 Romanians claiming that they were promised €60 ($86) if they picked 50 kilogrammes of berries per day, according to a report in the local nwt.se news site.

They argue that the conditions presented to them after having paid €300 to come to Sweden were changed to €50 for a daily haul of 70 kilogrammes and after a weekend averaging only 20 kilogrammes per day, the pickers decided to congregate in Munkfors to express their dismay.

"There are no blueberries so why have they called for us to come," the group's spokesperson told nwt.se.

This claim is however rejected by Mika Riikonen, the owner of Naturbemanning och Brygg AB, who claims that the Romanian berry pickers are the only group that has struggled to find berries.

Riikonen argued that the group of Thai berry pickers average 215 kilos per day and claimed that the Romanians were given the wrong information in their home country.

"And they are lazy bums quite frankly," he told the newspaper.

The group's protest in Munkfors attracted the interest of the local police and the berry pickers appealed to the officers for help in their plight, but were told that as nothing criminal had occurred there was no case to answer.

Naturbemanning och Brygg AB plans to contact the Romanian embassy on Thursday as well as the Kommunal union and on Friday it is hoped that the protesters will get their wish to return home.

Story continues below…

"Then we will get new ones from the same agency. But this time I have asked them to check their criminal records first," Mika Riikonen said.

The Local/pvs (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:20 August 25, 2011 by StockholmSam
This Mika Riikonen guy sounds like a real a**hole.
11:44 August 25, 2011 by JulieLou40
But don't you think it's funny that everyone else could find plenty of berries, and yet they couldn't?
11:52 August 25, 2011 by engagebrain
Riikonen argued that the group of Thai berry pickers average 215 kilos per day

thats an amazing number of berries, so amazing I don't believe it.

In a ten hour working day that is a kilo every 3 mins.
11:57 August 25, 2011 by conboy
I want to see Jimmy Åkesson and his mates like Riikonen down on their hands and knees picking the berries as part of their "great patriotic duties" then we'll see who does the work!!!
12:03 August 25, 2011 by Osk
Does not say how many Thais are picking!

Whats it to do with Jimmy Akesson / cheap foreign labour picks fruit in many countries because most of the population dont want the job and certainly dont want to pay higher prices for the items
12:03 August 25, 2011 by eddie123
why seek to have a replacement batch of Romanian berry pickers? they will all have the same problem since the employer claims they are lazy. the solution is to turn to Thailand. since Riikonen claims the Thais are better at finding berries, he should concentrate his efforts at reinforcing the harvest with additional thai hands.

that said, this issue is fast becoming a yearly recurrence and the government must take concrete steps to stem the tidy of dubious farm owners who deceive farm hands to come to Sweden and labor for free (inhumane wages). it is about time Swedes took up the responsibility of picking their berries.
12:31 August 25, 2011 by foxpur
I believe there is a manditory limit of what nationality you can hire for that type of work.
13:12 August 25, 2011 by Smokebox
Are the blue berries sold in ICA from Sweden?????
13:59 August 25, 2011 by Valdemaratterdag
On the forums I just read that a Notary Public in Sweden gets 300 SEK. which is about $50. To sign and notarize something must take all of, what, a couple of minutes? The berry pickers work all frickin' day on their knees and get $86?

I'm in the wrong line of work. (and it ain't berry picking)
21:31 August 25, 2011 by luke123
I thought there was no human trafficking in Sweden. Didn't Sweden criminalize buying berries (but made it legal to sell) ?
00:38 August 26, 2011 by wxman
Apparently Thais are more agressive berry hunters than Romanians. You get paid for what you bring in. What a novel idea!
06:29 August 26, 2011 by för30årseden

I looked up one of my sources. In the U.S. a really good picker can do about 20 dry pints = 15lbs = 7 kilos in an hour. But that is really good -- a hard-core bracero!

215 kilos in a day is absurd.
13:52 August 26, 2011 by bjinger
14:36 August 26, 2011 by conboy
Get Jimmy Åkesson and the SD patriots in there pal they have all the answers!
19:19 August 27, 2011 by raluralu
Nothing special here. 215 kg a day is not absurd. Several years ago I was in Sweden (twice) and I can say that 215 kg is 28.66 boxes of strawberries that we collect in less than a day. A work day could be 15 hours, especially around Midsummer. However, I do not know if I managed to collect 30 boxes a few times, but there were many Romanians and some Polish who picked 40 (or more) boxes of strawberries a day. (1 box = 7,5 kg). And we carry them even at distance of 500 m where it was the tractor. Do not think that was a lot of strawberries together and how easy it is to reap. You had to run kilometers per day to collect 20 boxes and then those who did even 40 boxes were very handy. (No mention of cucumbers, which the team gathered tons per day, and certainly hundreds of kilograms per person). But it was not impossible, each was paid according to his ability. It's a hellish job, but we knew where we were going, with the contract, and that will not be easy at all. I forgot to mention: I am Romanian. We knew that we were underpaid, but still not earn more in Romania, so we went there to work (on Olland), not to protest. Is not Sweden's fault that our country is in a very bad situation for years. Those who leave their country to work physicaly abroad should know that is very hard. It is their choice and they must assume that choice. In short, the phenomena is not new and not worth discussion: those in poor countries go to rich countries where they will be underpaid compared to locals. If you think about the money you can win there, very well, but if you're interested in how oppressed are you and beg for mercy, will remain in the street. I never felt a slave in Sweden, I went to work for money, on this occasion to see and another country, other people, other customs. Now, I do not know what is the situation of Romanians in this article. But I know that Sweden is a wonderful country with wonderful people. I have not seen in my country so respect for work and for those who work as I have seen in Sweden. Despite the heavy work, I left with very nice memories.
19:43 August 27, 2011 by Rick Methven

Multsumesc for you post. Norok
00:45 August 28, 2011 by jacquelinee
Don't you think it is a bit hippocritical for Mika Riikonen to call anyone lazy? After all, there are a lot of Swedes out of work, but he had to import workeres from other countries because the Swedes are too lazy to pick berries. But then again, how can you pick berries with only 1 hand while holding a cell phone and trying to text. What are the statistical figures for the Swedish berry pickers? (I hear you...Are there any Swedish berry pickers?)
02:38 August 28, 2011 by PonceDeLeon
A simple solution is to make it illegal to sell berries and mushrooms picked on non private land. Allow people to pick for their own private use all other commercial enterprises most follow current agricultural and labor laws. ie Hourly Wages and benefits. So much talk of "fairness" in Sweden. Clearly, time to walk the walk on this issue..
12:46 August 29, 2011 by wabasha
I would hire Mexicans. generally hard workers, and with any luck would stay and open a few Mexican restaurants!
17:28 August 29, 2011 by D. ane
School holidays are historically long because schoolchildren were employed to help with the harvest. There are plenty of unemployed students now that we cannot use children as labour.

Besides there are plenty of young people that are unemployed and these can be used as fruit pickers.

It is so ironic that we have such high unemployment yet we cannot get people to work on the farm. We have the same problem here in the UK.

Oh I forgot - they get more money on benefits than working and here lies the problem!
04:53 September 1, 2011 by crunchy2k
I see this misuse of foreign people every year about this time...Right after the birds have eaten all my black raspberrys here in Calif. I cuss at the lack of over-site on these scams and then at the birds.
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