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Seasonal workers arrive in Finland, take Covid precautions

The Finnish agricultural sector needs between 10,000 and 16,000 essential workers each year.

Sortavalalaiset Artem ja Irina Klemzikova poimivat mansikoita Venälän tilalla Kuopiossa
Strict Covid measures in place for first seasonal workers. Image: Sakari Partanen / Yle

The first seasonal agricultural workers have already arrived in Finland ahead of the summer season, but they are subject to strict corona measures. Some 160 workers from Ukraine were tested for the coronavirus less than 72 hours before their departure to Finland, then re-tested at Helsinki Airport on arrival.

On Tamsaari farm in Merimasku, Naantali, where four workers from the first flight are already settling into their routines, another Covid test was issued a few days later, explains owner Stiina Lerkki.

"Between the testing at the airport and on location, the employees are isolated from each other, in their own separate spaces," she adds.

While safety is a priority for employers, there is no denying the prejudice facing seasonal workers coming from abroad.

"We all have prejudices towards this disease, but it is something we now have to live with. We handle the situation with these workers the same way we handle our other employees, responsibly and safely," says Lerkki.

Need for international workers increases in summer

Recruitment service Töitä Suomesta transports workers to Finland on charter planes from. The company regularly flies in seasonal workers from Ukraine.

"There is currently a demand for seasonal workers in southwestern Finland, where harvesting has already begun. The demand then moves to other parts of the country and is at its peak during the berry picking season in Suonenjoki and Savo," says Marko Mäki-Hakola, Director of Business Development at the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners of Finland (MTK), who also works for Töitä Suomesta.

Charter planes also arrived last year, in the midst of the pandemic. Mäki-Hakola says the Finnish government for encouraged this corona-safe arrangement. He estimates that 10,000 to 16,000 seasonal workers will be needed during the summer season.

"Last year, 3,000 seasonal workers arrived on our flights, and there were no cases of Covid-19 present. The tests and quarantines are implemented carefully," says Mäki-Hakola.

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