exploit Vietnamese workers and Estonian electricians
Helsinki (03.05.2010 - Juhani Artto) A year ago police were called to intervene in the
beating of a Vietnamese worker in the sleepy small town Uusikaarlepyy at Ostrobothnia. It
was the beginning of a process that has exposed what has been described as "exceptionally
brutal exploitation" in Intiim magazines editorial.
The exploiter in this instance has been a subcontractor for a plastic company, and it was
the subcontractor' sons who assaulted the Vietnamese worker.
According to the latest issue of Intiim, the magazine of the trade union TEAM, police soon
found out that the subcontractor was in several other respects a rotten employer. In
practise, male employees earned no more than EUR800 monthly and female employees only
EUR500. Worse still, the working week of these about twenty Vietnamese employees was
double that of what is considered the regular working week. And no annual leave was
granted to the employees.
Jukka Heikkerö, a lawyer with TEAM, is convinced that in this case criminal code elements
relating to human trafficking are applicable. Police are now gathering material evidence
concerning the case with a view to pursuing eventual prosecution.
In recent years more and more news on bad treatment of immigrant labour has been
published. Vasama, the magazine of the Electrical Workers' Union, reported in its latest
issue on abuse of Estonian electricians who have been working in Tampere for only
EUR10 per hour which is far below the minimum agreed upon in the national collective
agreement for electricians' work.
For Finnish employees this kind of exploitation not only serves as a reminder of how
inhuman labour market practise can exist in the Finland of today. But it also strikes home
how such malevolent employer policy must be understood as indicative of the serious and
ever increasing risks facing both Finnish employees and employers. If this kind of
grevious exploitation is not stamped out now it will mean growing problems for honest
companies and their personnel who are in competition with companies that have totally
sub-standard pay-scales and that fully neglect taxes and social security costs.
What is also alarming is that authorities and legislators have not done much in recent
years to prevent this dangerous tendency. The trade union movement has continuously
demanded more resources and rights for the labour inspectorates but these demands have
mainly been ignored. There is also a clear need to put more responsibility on the
shoulders of companies concerning their subcontractors' honesty.
It may sound strange but public sector organisations seem not to be any better than
private companies when it comes to checking their subcontractors' behaviour. The City of Tampere
could have intervened and prevented the exploitation of Estonian electricians as the City
will hire space, for its social services centre, from the building under construction. But
the City has remained passive, and in Vasama its representative only "regrets"
the exposed case, i.e. the social dumping.