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Home NATIONALImproved operation in wild berry-picking sector on cards
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Fri, 19 Dec, 2014 04:21:10 AM
FTimes Report, Dec. 19

The Ministry of Employment and the Economy and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on Thursday signed a letter of intent concerning picking of wild berries with several berry industry companies.

The objective is to improve and harmonise operating methods that concern citizens of countries subject to visa requirements who come to Finland to pick wild produce or perform other tasks in the industry, said an official press release.

Up till now, the operating methods have not always met the minimum standards defined in the letter of intent.

The purpose of the letter of intent is to strengthen the legal position and opportunities for earning money of foreign berry pickers and to provide a more level playing field for companies in the berry industry. The majority of foreign wild berry pickers come from Thailand.

The letter of intent includes 26 jointly agreed points concerning the operating methods. Among other things, the companies responsible for inviting berry pickers to the country undertake to provide the pickers with better induction training and guidance.

Additionally, the recruitment and other costs charged to the pickers are set at a more reasonable level, and the charges made will be monitored more carefully. More stringent quality criteria are also imposed on accommodation, sanitary facilities and catering offered to the pickers.

The letter of intent is not intended to affect the pickers’ legal position in terms of labour law.

The document signed on Thursday follows on earlier development measures. In February 2014, several proposals aiming to improve the legal position of pickers were put forward by Markku Wallin, a rapporteur appointed by the labour and foreign affairs ministers.

In June, the parliamentary Employment and Equality Committee tasked the Ministry of Employment and the Economy with monitoring and evaluating the berry-picking activities of Thai pickers during the summer of 2014.

Within the industry itself, the Wild Organic Products Industries’ Association, a member of the Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation, has created a self-regulation mechanism for its affiliated companies.

The berry sector companies having signed the letter of intent represent a wide range of businesses in the industry. The letter of intent enters into force with immediate effect, and its impacts will thus already be felt during the forthcoming picking season. The contents of the letter of intent will be taken into consideration by the Finnish foreign missions when making decisions on visas.



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