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Thai Berry Pickers Face Bleak Working Conditions in Finland

Each summer, thousands of berry pickers from Thailand arrive in Finland with the hopes of earning a bundle of cash. Although Finnish berry companies depend heavily on the workers, their wages and conditions are substandard.

Marjoja pakasterasioissa
Image: Matti Konttinen / Yle

Around 2,000 berry pickers from Thailand made their way into Finnish forests this summer. The migrant workers carry out backbreaking labor around the clock.

For example, Junya Yimprasert, a representative from the Migrant Workers’ Union Thailand, says workers pick cloudberries for 18 to 22 hours a day during the high season in July.

“The cloudberry price is the highest price. If they make the best out of that, they can maybe cover the cost of coming here.”

However, some berry pickers go home with nothing but debt from the expensive journey to Finland. A report published this week finds that the average hourly wage for berry pickers is just a couple of euros. Working conditions are also far from ideal.

”The first 48 days you're working just to cover the costs. And you only have 20 days, with no lingonberries left, to make a profit. They will usually go home with 1,000 euros. And the best maybe go home with 2,000 to 3,000 euros,” says Junya Yimprasert.

Anu-Tuija Lehto, a lawyer from the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), says the situation brings forced labour and human trafficking to mind.

Finnish companies buying the berries have the power to dictate wages and conditions. Although the Thai workers are considered entrepreneurs, all they do is pick berries from morning to night.

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