Thailand wants answers over berry pickers’ Covid-19 outbreaks in Finland 

File photo of Thai berry pickers at work in Kärsämäki in September 2020. Image: Paulus Markkula / Yle

Since the beginning of the month, over 200 berry pickers from Thailand have been diagnosed with Covid-19 while working in Finland and now Thailand has asked Finnish authorities for an explanation regarding the series of Covid outbreaks among the Thai nationals.

Local media YLE writes that it was reported on 17 August that two Finnish berry companies, Arctic International and Polarica, transported at least 260 foreign berry pickers from Lapland to eastern Finland even though most of them were infected by or exposed to covid-19.

Commenting on the ongoing situation regarding the infection amongst Thai workers in the country, Thailand’s Ambassador to Finland, Chavanart Thangsumphant, said that the Finnish berry picking firms are responsible for protecting the migrant workers’ health amid the ongoing covid-19 pandemic and that the companies have signed an agreement on this matter. The companies are obligated to provide appropriate treatment and compensation if migrant workers do get Covid as well as providing health insurance, accommodation, and transportation.

“We are now waiting for authorities to find out whether the companies fully and properly complied with the agreement’s conditions or not,” Ambassador Chavanart Thangsumphant said.

According to the contract, workers also need to be paid compensation if they are ordered into quarantine, and companies are compelled to pay the equivalent of roughly EUR 25,500 to a worker’s family in the event of their Covid-related death.

Ambassador ChavanartThangsumphant said that Thailand hopes Finnish berry picking companies would recognize their hired pickers as employees and grant them rights in line with local employment laws. “In this way, pickers could be guaranteed fair and equal rights to, among other things, well-being and health, similar to the rights that Finnish workers have,” the Ambassador said.

According to the Ambassador, Thailand has been in contact with Finnish authorities since the first case of covid-19 amongst Thai berry pickers was detected and asked for an investigation into the workers’ quarters to discover a possible reason for the outbreak. The Embassy of Thailand in Finland is hoping for swift action from the Finnish Foreign Ministry and the Ambassador noted that she believes the Finnish authorities were doing their best to protect the berry pickers.

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