The Ministry of Labor has said it will start negotiations with Swedish officials following Sweden’s threat to suspend the issuance of seasonal working visas to Thai berry pickers, following reports of unfair treatment by employers and job brokers.
Swedish ambassador Jon Astrom Grondahl tweeted about the issue on January 13, stating that the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok will not facilitate berry pickers until employers guarantee fair recruitment, safety standards and decent working conditions for Thai workers in Sweden.
Department of Employment Director-General Phairoj Chotikasatien met with the ambassador in mid-December to discuss working conditions for Thai berry pickers. He noted that the problem is rather complex and involves a number of companies which purchase berries from the farms that hired the workers.
In recent years, the number of Thais eager to take up berry-picking jobs in Sweden and Finland has increased, with 6,000 Thais traveling to these countries in 2022 – up from 5,000 the previous year. However, the increase has also led to a rise in disputes, with about 400 workers asking the government to act as a mediator between them and their employers or recruitment agencies.
Samarn Laodumrongchai, an expert at the Institute of Asian Studies, said many Thai berry pickers end up overstaying their visas and taking up other jobs when they realize they haven’t made enough to cover their debts.
Labor Minister Suchart Chomklin said he is planning to convene a meeting soon to discuss a solution with related agencies. (NNT)