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Ukraine will let seasonal workers head to Finnish farms after all

Some 1,500 Ukrainian labourers will now be able to travel to Finland if certain conditions are met.

Ukrainalaisia kausityöntekijöitä valmistelemassa mansikoita myyntiin Suonenjoella Veikko Raivion tilalla 5. heinäkuuta 2013.
Ukrainian seasonal workers preparing strawberries for sale in Suonenjoki on July 5, 2013. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

The Ukrainian government will allow its citizens to travel abroad for seasonal work, once certain conditions are met, according to a press release posted on the government website on Saturday.

The announcement marks a reversal of an earlier decision, first reported in Finland by the rural newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus, that was seen as a significant setback to Finnish farmers dependent on labourers during the crop harvesting season. Many say they are unable to find enough skilled, willing workers on the domestic market, and prefer to use workers who are already trained and experienced.

The conditions set out by the Ukrainian government include guaranteed employment for at least three months, health care, insurance, and a "decent level of living and wages".

"We expect that this process will be as transparent as possible, without unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles," Deputy Prime Minister Vadym Prystaiko is quoted in the press release as saying. "I hope that starting next week this process will be organised and we will embark on communication with those concerned groups, associations as well as employees who want to get to work abroad."

The reversal of the ban on seasonal workers travelling abroad is part of a wider easing of coronavirus restrictions in the country.

Negotiations to begin as soon as possible

Marko Mäki-Hakola of MTK, the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners in Finland, told Maaseudun Tulevaisuus that he hopes the Finnish government will begin negotiations with the Ukrainian government by the beginning of next week.

Last Monday, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told news agency STT that he had been in discussion with his Ukrainian counterpart about the issue of seasonal workers on several occasion, as Finland had issued 1,500 visas to Ukrainian citizens but only 200 have so far arrived.

They have mostly taken up positions as foremen on farms in the south of Finland.

Foreign seasonal workers are allowed to enter Finland despite travel restrictions because the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry deemed them essential workers for securing Finland's food supply.

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