Swedish Embassy to halt assistance to Thai berry pickers, scrutinise shady procedures

Jon Åström Gröndahl, the Swedish Ambassador to Thailand, has announced that the Embassy will halt assistance to Thais to go picking berries in Sweden after hearing claims of shadow contracts and fake documents.

 

In a Tweet on 13 January, the Ambassador stated that this will remain the situation until “all employers guarantee fair recruitment, safety standards and decent working conditions.”

For over a decade, Thais have spent the last several months of the year picking berries in Scandinavian countries like Finland and Sweden . The journeys were made through private agents with the support of the authorities in Thailand and the destination countries. 

With a promising income over a short period of time, alleged exploitation has been a regular problem through shady employment contracts that result in workers receiving less income than expected or nothing at all.

Chaiwat Wannakhot, a berry pickers watchdog for the Move Forward Party, told Prachatai that he has informed the Embassy about a certain agency’s misconduct in submitting a decent work contract to the Ministry of Labour and the Embassy while handing out a different unfair contract to job seekers. 

He added that the contract generally does not present any legal relationship between the agency and the labourers, meaning that the berry pickers shoulder all risks themselves. The contract also specifies no working conditions.

Ovat Thongbomakrut, Director of the Ministry of Labour’s Overseas Employment Administration Division, said Swedish Embassy staff discussed the matter with the Department of Employment on 18 January.

The Department of Employment and the Swedish Embassy did not respond to Prachatai’s immediate request for comment.

Source: 
prachatai.com/journal/2023/01/102361

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