Berry Pickers Had Invalid Contract

The employment agreement covering 290 Vietnamese berry pickers who worked in Swedish fields last summer, dozens of whom still remain in Europe, should never have been approved, according to a Swedish union.

The Swedish Municipal Workers’ Union (Kommunal) has asserted that the workers should never have made the trip from Vietnam in the first place.

The workers’ contract, which was approved by the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket), was also supposed to be approved by the union.

With respect to the berry pickers from Vietnam, the union approved an agreement which mandated that the companies operating Swedish berry farms would ensure workers received at least 17,730 kronor ($2,700) from the Vietnamese staffing company that arranged for the them to come to Sweden, Sveriges Radio (SR) reports.

But the union never had a chance to see the agreement between the staff company and the Vietnamese workers which includes a clause stating that the minimum salary would only be paid if the workers picked at least 95 kilogrammes of lingonberries or 60 kilogrammes of blueberries per day.

According to the union, the contract from the Vietnamese staffing company is invalid, despite the fact that it was approved by Swedish migration authorities.

The Migration Board refused to comment on whether or not it’s allowed to tie berry pickers’ salaries to how many berries they pick.

While several of the berry pickers have returned to Vietnam empty handed, more than 150 remain in Europe because of the huge debts the incurred in making the trip to Sweden last summer, instead opting to remain in Europe and continue working in hopes of earning enough to pay back their debts.

Most still owe 15,000 to 25,000 kronor, which is the equivalent of several years’ pay in Vietnam, according to SR.

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