The Thai Embassy in Stockholm has issued a warning to Thai nationals seeking employment as berry pickers in Sweden to avoid being scammed by unscrupulous job placement agents.
Job placement agents usually charge exortibant fees, up to THB100,000 per head, for the opportunity to work as wild berry pickers in Sweden.
The workers are then sent to work under contract for Swedish companies. The majority of Thai berry pickers from poverty-stricken areas in the Northeast. Many had to borrow money to pay the agents in the hope that they would be able to earn a lot more to cover the expenses.
But most Thai wild berry pickers do not realize the harsh working/living conditions, including typical working day that starts around 3 am and can drag on until late at night.
Each picking season, thousands of Thais are granted temporary visa to work during mid-July to end of September. Their wages depend on the amount of fruits they pick under quota.
Although Swedish authorities offer guarantee for minimum wage of SEK18,975 (THB95,000) per month on condition of a minimum 40-hour work week, many Thais are unaware of the rules, failed to clock up the number of hours required and found themselves unprotected.
Thai workers are also charged daily expenses, amounting to SEK8,400 per month for food, transportation, lodging by their Swedish contractors. To actually make money, the berry pickers have to pick enough to cover and exceed the expenses.
Risks include low yields, illnesses and occupational hazards, like getting lost in forest or an encounter with wild bears. Some Thai berry pickers end up not making any money and find themselves hopeless indebted.
Read more (in Thai): Embassy of Thailand in Stockholm