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Construction federation seeks Covid testing of foreign workers

The industry lobby group RT recommends that workers arriving from abroad be tested before beginning work.

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In some cases, building sites have been shut down due to infections (file photo). Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle
Yle News

The Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries (RT) will recommend that its member companies require a negative coronavirus test result from each worker arriving from outside the country.

The group says it expects that members will follow the guideline. They include major building contractors such as YIT, Skanska, NCC, SRV and Peab. The main construction workers' union called for such testing last week.

The move comes in response to the more-infectious strain of the virus that was first detected in England and may have been brought to Finland by Estonian labourers, among others.

"We want to help raise the health safety level in regard to workers from abroad. In this way we can fend off the epidemic and improve safety on construction sites," RT director Aleksi Randell said.

The latest cluster of Covid-19 infections at a building site was reported on Thursday by the tabloid Iltalehti. At least four builders, some of them foreigners, tested positive while working on a renovation of the Finnish Medical Association headquarters in Helsinki.

The National Institute for Health and Welfare of Finland (THL) ordered the site closed until 21 January. All 100 or so workers have been placed under 10 days’ quarantine.

Union: Employers should foot bill for quarantine

Last week the Finnish Construction Trade Union also called for testing and mandatory quarantine of all labourers arriving in Finland, with the cost of quarantines to be covered by employers.

The trade union estimates that there are some 20,000 foreign builders working in Finland. The largest group are from neighbouring Estonia, where the Covid-19 situation is significantly worse than here.

Very few of the construction workers arriving on ships from the Estonian capital Tallinn have so far undergone voluntary coronavirus tests, says union chair Matti Harjuniemi.

"A positive test would cut off their pay; that’s why they avoid them," he told Yle. "Above all, though, we have to primarily consider health here now so that we can keep the sites running."

The RT meanwhile says that it should be made easier and quicker for guest workers to be tested on arrival at the nation’s harbours.

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