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Daily: Cleaning firms abuse workers, suffer no consequences

Some of the injustices and abuses workers face have been described as inhuman and reminiscent of human trafficking.

Laitossiivoojan siivousvälineet työntekijöiden taukotilan oven edustalla.
HS discovered irregularities in worker treatment among firms that provided cleaning services for municipal schools and daycares Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

An investigative report by daily Helsingin Sanomat has uncovered a number of injustices experienced by workers in the cleaning industry. According to the paper, workers often have to deal with overly-long working days, insufficient breaks and no time off.

The paper interviewed dozens of cleaning industry workers as well as employer representatives and reviewed official documents for the exposé. It found irregularities in worker treatment by cleaning firms that provided services for municipal schools and daycare centres, for example.

The investigation also revealed large-scale and systematic abuse of workers, at worst describing working conditions as inhuman and reminiscent of human trafficking. HS also said that over the years victim support hotlines have received many reports of worker abuse.

The cleaning trade employs many immigrant-background people and refugees who may not necessarily be aware of worker rights, job contracts or labour laws. They may also be afraid of being sacked or even deported if they complain about the injustices they face, HS found.

PM calls for action against abuses

Prime Minister Sanna Marin took to Twitter on Sunday to react to the HS report.

"The situation in the Finnish labour market, in which worker abuse is so widespread and systematic, is entirely untenable. We need legislative change as well as more resources for public authorities to correct the situation," the PM wrote.

She pointed out that worker abuse should entail major financial risk to deter employers from abusive practices.

"Labour unions should also be given more effective means to intervene. The right to legal action would be one such measure," she added.

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