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Staffing agency faces probe over treatment of berry pickers

Berry pickers said they were led to believe they would be compensated more than they were.

The staffing agency told the Hungarian pickers they would be picking strawberries, but it turned out there wasn't enough work for everyone. Image: Mikko Koski / Yle

Police are launching a preliminary investigation into the employment conditions of foreign berry pickers at a farm in northern Finland after workers lodged a complaint with authorities over pay.

Officials are probing the staffing agency which supplied the pickers to a farm in northern Finland.

The workers claim the zero-hours contracts they were offered did not reflect the promises made to them by a Finnish staffing agency, which also deducted a portion of their pay.

Police and the local regional administrative agency in Lapland inspected the farm in July. Eighteen Hungarian workers were present at the time. Police and the Lapland administrative authority decided to proceed with the investigation after meeting with the workers, according to Detective Inspector Nina Similä of Oulu police.

The staffing agency recruited the Hungarians to pick strawberries, but there wasn't enough work to go around for everyone in the group.

Similä suggested that staffing agencies may have overbooked seasonal workers this summer when it seemed coronavirus travel restrictions would prevent Ukrainian farm workers from travelling to Finland.

The Hungarian pickers have since returned to their home country.

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