Finns Outraged By Swedish Plans To Bring Estonian Builders To Finland

Anger has been raised among local people by the Swedish-based multinational construction company Skanska plans to recruit some 40 Estonian construction workers to build new premises for the ICT Agency HALTIK in Rovaniemi when there are nearly 400 unemployed construction workers in the area.

”The labor markets are already out of control in the Greater Helsinki area.”

Heimo Lahtela


The Swedish-based multinational construction company Skanska plans to recruit some 40 Estonian construction workers to build new premises for the ICT Agency HALTIK in Rovaniemi. Anger has been raised among local people by the fact that there are nearly 400 unemployed construction workers in the small town in northern Finland.

The figure for the all of Finnish Lapland is more than 1,000, Helsingin Sanomat reported last week.

The estimated number of foreign construction workers working in Finland is as high as 30,000. At the same time, there are some 14,000 jobless construction workers in Finland.

The members of the Finnish Construction Trade Union in Rovaniemi have held a work stoppage on Friday in protest against Skanska’s action.

In addition, MP Esko-Juhani Tennilä (Left Alliance) has made a parliamentary inquiry concerning Skanska’s actions. In Tennilä’s view it is not appropriate to recruit cheap labor for a state-run work-site, which is why the payer of the project should intervene in the matter.

”The wages Skanska will pay to the Estonians are in accordance with the Finnish collective labor agreement, even though the employees are working for the Estonian subsidiary Skanska EMV”, says Sakari Jämsä, the manager of Skanska’s Northern Finland regional unit.

”We are not willing to comment on any details relating to the HALTIK construction site, as that has been agreed upon in the contract documents”, he notes.

”The employees have been forbidden to speak about HALTIK”, confirms Pasi Heikkilä, Skanska’s chief shop steward in Rovaniemi.

Moreover, Skanska has not given its own employees any information of the HALTIK project, the construction of which is to begin within the next few weeks.

”Two Estonians came to Rovaniemi in the autumn in order to give us a hand, as the contract was lagging behind. We had to mend their work afterward, as the ceiling fillets were cracking”, Heikkilä reports.

According to Juha Hetemäki, the President of Skanska Finland, the recruitment of Estonian construction workers is a question of good building quality.

In an interview with the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s Lapland regional radio service, Hetemäki noted that the construction schedule is just four and a half months. In his opinion, it is not possible to find enough suitable labor for this project in Lapland.

”The arguments given by the management of Skanska are not watertight, as professional construction workers are certainly available in Lapland. This is the first time when a major nationwide construction company attempts to hire such a large number of foreign laborers for Lapland”, says Heimo Lahtela, the head of the Finnish Construction Trade Union’s office in Lapland.

Lahtela says that Skanska is causing turmoil on the competition and labour markets in Lapland, which are working successfully. Importing Estonian laborers cannot be profitable, as they should also be entitled to accommodation and per diems, Lahtela believes.

”The labor markets are already out of control in the Greater Helsinki area. Yesterday, two building entrepreneurs called me. They said that they would withdraw from the construction markets in Helsinki, claiming that it is not possible to run a profitable business in the capital region if employers have to pay salaries plus social security contributions in compliance with the labor agreement”, Lahtela continues.

Lahtela has heard that at some construction sites in Helsinki, Estonian workers sometimes have to pay back part of their wages. Sometimes, working hours are left unrecorded.

Some Estonians have also been intimidated by their employers.

Lahtela fears that such shady business practices could spread even to Lapland.

”When the government uses debt financing for economic stimulus it must mean that these funds are used to employ Finnish workers. The purpose cannot be to pump money into shady foreign businesses through a complicated chain of construction firms”, Lahtela insists.

The estimated number of foreign construction workers working in Finland is as high as 30,000. At the same time, there are some 14,000 jobless construction workers in Finland.

The underlying factor behind the flow of Estonian workers into Finland is the economic downturn in Estonia that has brought nearly all construction activities in the country to a halt.

Source: balticbusinessnews.com

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