Exploitation of immigrant workers not to pass unpunished

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Lately we have once again witnessed how workers are exploited under almost slavish conditions in the Swedish labour market. This time focus is on Cameroon guest workers who came to Sweden to afforest with the promise of a salary of SEK 18,500/month (approx. Euro 2,145) and an additional SEK 6,000 (approx. Euro 695) as subsistence allowance.
On arrival, the salary agreement was turned into piecework and suddenly they were to receive SEK 0.22 (approx Euro 0.03) per plant. In order to obtain the same amount as the original salary, they would have had to work day and night setting 3,500 plants daily. This is twice as much as an experienced forest worker is capable of doing and this was thus a slave contract.

It is a mistake to let employers, without transparency from the authorities’ side, to be in total control of the workforce immigration. The deregulation of the system four years ago has turn out to be a complete flop. Since then we have regularly experienced shocking cases of exploitation, fiddling and hassles.

At the same time, we have heard the Minister for Migration, energetically maintaining that nothing further needs to be done, and that no legislative adjustment is needed. Now these negative facts are no longer possible to deny, Mr. Thorbjörn Johansson LO Negotiating Secretary, says.

Therefore LO demands that the Swedish Migration Board or other authority should be obliged by law to examine the reliability of employers and job offers. In the case of the forest workers from Cameroon, the reasonableness of the employer’s statement should be questioned if he refers to recruitment difficulties despite of a monthly pay of SEK 25,000 and tasks not requiring professional training.

It is not a reasonable process when the workforce is persuaded to come here from the other side of the world on grounds of a loosely formulated job offer, which the employer can single-handedly alter afterwards. The work permit is being granted based on a non-binding job offer. This must be changed.

We have an adequate demand – that employees must be guaranteed fair working conditions here in Sweden. The only appropriate approach is to demand that work permits are granted only if there are legally binding employment contracts registered at the Swedish Migration Board, continues Torbjörn Johansson.

As things are now it is the worker who alone bears the whole risk. If the Swedish Migration Board or any other authority gets knowledge of deficient working conditions, the work permit is suspended. This is a fact and there has been thousands of cases over a period of only four years.

But no employer has ever been found guilty or even been prosecuted for having exploited workers or mislead the Migration Board. This is unacceptable. We demand that migrant workers having been used by unscrupulous employers must not risk deportation and that these employers must be prosecuted, Torbjörn Johansson states.

Our hope are now centered on that the Green Party in order for this to happen. The Green Party must stop supporting the minority government. Without their active support there had never been these recurrent cases with people who are being exploited, Torbjörn Johansson concludes.