Helsinki (Heikki Jokinen - 19.08.2016) Some 14 500 seasonal garden workers and wild berry pickers arrived in Finland this year from outside the European Union. This is the highest number ever.

Finnish legislation with respect to ‘everyman’s right’ gives a broad right for anyone to use the vast nature areas of the country with few restrictions. This legal concept which is accepted in the other Nordic countries too, applies also to private land.

The means that wild berries and mushrooms may be picked freely wherever everyman’s right applies. Picking and selling wild berries is also tax free.

For many years some 3 000 - 4 000 wild berry pickers have arrived in Finland every year, especially from Thailand. Their situation has been discussed a lot in recent years as the companies inviting pickers to Finland have left many unpaid or without proper accommodation.

This year the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has granted a seasonal work visa to 9,036 people from Ukraine, 3,627 from Thailand and 1,857 from Russia. They have the right to stay in the country for up to 90 days.

Russians and Ukrainians are mainly working on strawberry picking at farms and they are covered by the Woodworkers’ Union collective agreement.

This guarantees a minimum pay of 8.29 euro per hour, 50 - 100 per cent higher pay for overtime, double pay for Sunday work, compensation for annual leave and other benefits.

Thai berry pickers have no collective agreement

People arriving from Thailand are working in the forests picking wild berries. They are not seen as employees and are not covered by a collective agreement.

Finnish ministries have, however, signed a letter of intention with the companies inviting Thai berry pickers to Finland. This document sets the minimum guidelines for working conditions.

The number of Thai berry pickers has been quite stable in recent years, but the number of Ukrainian and Russian seasonal workers has been growing. The economic situation in Ukraine and the falling exchange rate of the Russian rouble makes working abroad more attractive. Ukrainians are no longer able to work in Russia, it should be remembered.

There are also thousands of berry pickers coming from EU countries, mainly from the Baltic countries and Poland. Their exact number is unknown.

Last year foreign berry pickers picked 86 per cent of all wild berries bought by Finnish companies. In 2015 they bought 7.2 million kilos blueberries and 10 million kilos lingonberries. However, some 85 per cent of wild berries in Finland remain unpicked in the forests.

Read also:
Thai berry pickers should get employment contracts rapporteur proposes (24.03.2014)