Blueberries. Photo: Kjell Ahlkvist/Sveriges Radio.
berry pickers

Thai labor group blacklists Sweden

Sweden has the dismal distinction of occupying second place on the blacklist of countries where Thai guest workers experience problems, according to a report form the organization Thai Labour Campaign.

First on the list is Israel, and third is Libya.

Many guest workers who come to Sweden to pick berries come from Thailand; many are poor and have taken out loans to be able to come to Sweden. The report shows that six of 10 berry pickers return from Sweden with large debts that they have to pay off for the rest of their lives. Only four of 10 berry pickers break even or make a profit after months of hard work.

Ulf Eliasson, an entrepreneur within the berry picking industry, says the problem is that one never knows how many berries there will be from season to season, but that he stops some berry pickers from coming if he sees that there aren't enough berries. This year, however, he says it looks good with a lot of cloudberries and blueberries.

During the last six years, Eliasson has relied on between 300 and 400 berry pickers and tells Swedish Radio News it has worked well.

"They're guaranteed a monthly salary," he says. "We have the union that checks that they've received their salary, and we show the Migration Board how much money they've gotten. So, it's transparent, how much money we have paid the Thai workers and that they've gotten their wages," he says.

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