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Lännen Media: Icebreakers crewed by Filipinos earning 500 euros a month

Crew from the Philippines have been paid less than 500 euros a month for working on an icebreaker plying Finnish waters on government contracts, reports the Lännen Media group. Including supplements and bonuses the crew's monthly earnings were under 800 euros, around 2,700 euros less than a Finnish seaman could expect in a similar role.

Jäänmurtajan aukipitämä meriväylä Kemin edustalla.
Finnish waters freeze over in the winter, but icebreakers are paid to keep shipping lanes clear. Image: Riikka Rautiainen / Yle

A shipping firm working on contracts from the Finnish government pays its Filipino workers less than 800 euros a month, according to a report in Lännen Media publications on Saturday. The report quotes union officials describing the contracts as akin to slavery.

"Public infrastructure is being maintained in Finland on slave wages," said Kenneth Bengts of the Finnish Seafarers' Union. "This is really obscene. Pay of less than 800 euros, including holidays and supplements, is close to slave labour in the Finnish market."

Both the International Labour Organisation and the International Transport Federation, a trade union umbrella organisation, put the minimum pay for a seaman at around 1,000 euros.

Higher wages "impossible"

The Finnish Transport Agency told Lännen Media that it is aware of the Filipino workers but has little power to force contractors to follow Finnish labour laws.

The ship, the Thetis owned by Alfons Håkans shipping, is registered in Cyprus. Filipino crew were recruited on eight month contracts in Manila in December by an Estonian subsidiary of the Håkans company.

The firm's CEO Joakim Håkans says that it's not possible to pay them more, and disagrees strongly with the union.

"We completely disagree on this," said Håkans. "They wanted the Filipinos to get the same pay as Finns employed by the Finnish state-owned firm Arctia. I'm sure there's a desire for that, it just isn't possible. We wouldn't be able to remain competitive in international markets."

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