Aluehallintovirasto/Regionförvaltningsverket

Occupational safety and health authority to supervise the rights of foreign berry pickers once again

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The occupational safety and health authority will supervise wild berry picking organised by berry companies once again during the upcoming picking period. Inspectors are aware that some pickers are in an employment relationship while others are independent pickers.

Due to serious suspected offences in the berry sector, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs suspended the reception of berry pickers' visa applications in Thailand in March 2024. The suspension concerns applicants from Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. During the 2024 harvest, companies in the berry sector can only recruit pickers from these countries for an employment relationship which means they will arrive in Finland with an employee's residence permit. 

However, picking under the Berry Act can still be carried out if the picker has some other right of residence in Finland. This can also be done if the berry company invites pickers from countries other than those mentioned above. 

Inspectors will enforce the Berry Act and minimum terms of employment 

The occupational safety and health authority supervises berry picking throughout Finland together with other authorities. During an inspection, the inspector will assess which act will be applied. 

In the case of an employment relationship, the inspector will insure that

  • the minimum wage, bonuses and working hours are in accordance with the collective agreement for rural industries
  • the provision of shift schedules complies with the collective agreement
  • the employer complies with the prohibition of discrimination
  • occupational healthcare has been arranged
  • employees have been covered by accident insurance
  • the employer has verified the foreign employee's right to work.

If a foreign picker picks natural berries under everyman's rights without an employment relationship and the berry company organises the picking, the Berry Act applies. In this case, the inspector will make sure that the berry company

  • has been deemed reliable by the TE Office
  • has submitted a notification to the occupational safety and health authority on the pickers' base
  • has informed the pickers of the purchase prices for the berries and the costs charged from the pickers
  • does not set picking schedules
  • does not restrict the picker's right to sell berries to others
  • has provided information to the pickers on such things as their rights and obligations and the parties providing advice
  • keeps contact information for officials available to pickers. 

The Berry Act does not contain provisions on a picker's minimum earnings or income, so the inspector cannot supervise these, if the picker is in an employment relationship.

"Inspections are carried out at picker bases in the evenings. One base may have
more than one hundred pickers, of which inspectors only have time to interview some with the help of an interpreter. In this situation, investigating the legal relationships between the berry company and different berry pickers may be very challenging," says inspector Niko Huru from the Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland's Occupational Safety and Health Division.

Information on the rights of pickers in different languages

During inspections guides published by the occupational safety and health authority are passed out to both employees in an employment relationship and independent pickers referred to in the Berry Act.

The Berry Act-centred guide 'Wild berry picker’s rights' has been published in Thai and English. The contents of the guide will also be published in Ukrainian and Russian during this picking period. The guide is available on the Picking of natural products page

The As a foreign employee in Finland guide for workers from other countries has been published in 18 languages, including Thai.

Keywords

Contacts

Inspector Niko Huru
+358 295 017 700, firstname.lastname@avi.fi
Occupational Safety and Health Division, Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland

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