Berry Pickers in New Strike

A group of Vietnamese berry pickers have left their place of employment in Baggård south of Umeå in northern Sweden in protest against their pay and working conditions and have expressed a wish to go home, local media have reported.

The 50 berry pickers complain that they believed that they were to pick berries in plantations and not in woodland.

“They have sat down in protest and have set up banners declaring SOS Vietnam,” Magnus Haglund at Nordmaling municipality to the news agency TT.

The strike action is not yet become an issue for the municipality, said Haglund, who does not know why the berry pickers are striking.

Berry purchaser Kamala Karlsson, who has signed a contract with the Vietnamese recruitment firm which has employed the berry pickers, is disappointed.

“They think that they can come to Sweden and protest and not pick any berries, that is what has happened,” said Kamala Karlsson.

The Local has previously reported that over 100 Chinese berry pickers went on a 15-kilometre overnight march from Långsjöby outside of Storuman on Thursday to protest their salaries and conditions.

Thousands of seasonal workers from Asia, most of them from Thailand, come to Sweden each summer mainly to pick wild berries in the north under sometimes
difficult working conditions.

After a disastrous season last year sent many of the foreign berry pickers home weighed down by debt instead of profits, they have this year for the first time been provided with contracts guaranteeing them a monthly wage of at least 16,372 kronor ($2,321).

Some Swedish unions have however said that the minimum salary is insufficient, producing evidence that in some cases it is hardly enough to cover the money the workers have to shell out for things like plane tickets, housing and car rental.

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