News - 03.05.2018 klo 13.19
Immigration

The many faces of exploitation in service sectors

PAM also has a wider role of representing the interests of service sectors in preventing the emergence of parallel labour markets and discrimination. Photo: Gettyimages.

PAM also has a wider role of representing the interests of service sectors in preventing the emergence of parallel labour markets and discrimination. Photo: Gettyimages.

Service sector workers are frequently exploited in various ways, also in Finland. Work-related exploitation is a broad definition and ranges from pay that is below the collective agreement to work-related human trafficking, i.e. forced labour.

Work-related exploitation often affects people with an immigrant background, who for many reasons are in a more vulnerable position in the labour market, says Suvi Vilches, PAM’s lawyer.

The trade unions, PAM included, usually become involved at the request of the Regional State Administrative Agency, for example in interpreting collective agreements when infringements are discovered in connection with workplace inspections. Problems have been found in service sectors, and especially in restaurants and facility services.

PAM plays an active role not just in defending members’ rights, but also has a wider role of representing the interests of service sectors in preventing the emergence of parallel labour markets and discrimination. This includes drawing attention to the phenomena and working e.g. with non-government organisations.

“My role involves helping those who are especially vulnerable in working life. But reaching out to them is challenging and requires working with a range of organisations and also training, so that for example shop stewards can recognise the diversity that exists in work-related exploitation”, Vilches says.

The most serious form of work-related exploitation is human trafficking. Human trafficking is also found in Finland, and especially in service sectors. According to the Secretary General of the Finnish League for Human Rights, Kaari Mattila, nine out of ten convictions related to extortionate work discrimination, employees’ working rights or human trafficking in the 2015-2016 period concerned restaurants. In all of these court cases the persons exploited had a foreign background.

But foreigners also experience other types of discrimination and exploitation.
“It is often said that those who exploit people with an immigrant background, for example in the restaurant sector, have an immigrant background themselves, but that is no longer always the case. When it comes to unpaid wages or having to work hours that go completely against collective agreements, then some of the employers are Finns", Vilches says.

The government is currently planning to downgrade dismissal protection, which would make dismissal easier in small companies. Then workers with an immigrant background – who are in a weaker position in the labour market anyway – would be placed in an even worse position with their employers if they pointed out problems. “This is another reason why we should try to get policy makers to understand what this reform really means”, Vilches says.

Do the most blatant cases remain hidden from the union?
“In the cleaning sector it is common that the number of hours worked is much higher than what is reported. The way cleaning jobs are calculated is that the official working time is what has been sold to the customer. Tenders are won on a certain number of hours, but in reality the cleaning cannot be done in this time. But overtime is not paid for, because employers say they haven’t required their employees to work longer; the employee is just “slow”: “This is a good example of the exploitation that foreign workers often face”, Vilches explains.

Very many workers with a foreign background are employed in the cleaning sector. A wage survey carried out by PAM in early 2018 showed that almost 50 per cent of cleaners in the Helsinki region have a foreign background. 

One challenge is that the most blatant cases of underpayment and infringements of working rights are rarely reported to the union directly, since in problem workplaces both employers and employees tend to be non-organised. 

Work-related exploitation also seen in the disputes the union handles
According to Johanna Sparf, PAM’s regional manager for Helsinki-Uusimaa, the regional office occasionally receives requests for judicial assistance from the police, for example to investigate outstanding wages for PAM members. At the moment the union is looking into a case of underpayment in the restaurant sector, where the police has requested assistance. Markku Peltola, an administrator in the Helsinki-Uusimaa regional office, says that the case is significant and involves a total of 20 persons with an immigrant background. The dispute will go to the appeal court in September.

In March 2018 there were 180 disputes pending in the Helsinki-Uusimaa regional office. Of these, around 70% concern members with an immigrant background in the facility services and restaurant sectors. Disputes most commonly concern outstanding wages and termination of employment, but other more serious infringements occur.

“Information campaigns have to be the most effective way of preventing all sorts of work-related exploitation so as to make union members and non-members alike aware of the law and collective agreements as well as their own rights and that telling about these things in Finland does not lose you your job and that it is ok to tell things to occupational safety and health inspectors, for example. The message also needs to be got across that if you are not sure whether everything is in order at your workplace you can always ask, Vilches points out.

PAM is also trying to make underpayment a criminal offence, which would mean that employers who underpay would be fined. 

Biggest problems are revealed in the restaurant and cleaning sector

According to Katja-Pia Jenu, inspector in the occupational safety and health (OSH) division of the Southern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency (ESAVI), most inspections of the supervision of immigrants are made in the restaurant sector. And for good reason, since that’s where most problems occur.

Last year the restaurant sector accounted for around 40 per cent of all inspections of the supervision of immigrants in Southern Finland. The second biggest area for inspections is the construction sector, and third is the cleaning sector (just under 14% of all of ESAVI’s inspections in 2017). In line with the priority sectors set by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, official inspections are regularly made in the construction, industry, facility services, hospitality and transport sectors. Monitoring resulting from tipoffs takes place in all sectors.

According to Jenu, the number of surprise visits has increased. Often the police, Finnish Customs and the Finnish Border Guard make a raid together. Supervision of immigrants focuses primarily on the foreign workers’ right to work and minimum employment conditions.

“In practice what we do at workplaces is to check the obligations under the Aliens Act – whether working permits are in order, and we go through the payslips and the time sheets", Katja-Pia Jenu says.

Monitoring also often brings challenges. There isn’t always a common language, workers are frightened of their employers, and workers are threatened or blackmailed with residence permits or being sent home.

The most common form of discrimination with foreign workers is generally underpay, meaning workers get wages that are below the minimum level in the collective agreement or are paid less than Finnish workers. Last year most problems were found in the restaurant sector. Over 50 per cent of inspections found failings in compliance with collective agreements.

In 2017 most problems were found in connection with keeping time sheets in the restaurant, construction and cleaning sectors, where time sheets were in order only on every third inspection where this was supervised.

“Working days can be long, but not all the hours worked may be recorded in an employer’s time sheets, so in these cases employees’ own working time records are like gold dust", Jenu mentions.

Co-operation between authorities is crucial, because the police assess for example whether the monitoring has revealed labour discrimination or even human trafficking. The OSH division of the Southern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency may also make a proposal to place a victim in the support system for victims of human trafficking, if there are reasons to suspect trafficking. All these cases represent financial infringements and offences, and often the dependency or insecure status of a person with a foreign background is exploited. Sometimes mercilessly. According to the support system for victims of human trafficking, exploitation of persons who have received negative asylum decisions is also beginning to be seen in the labour market.

“Since underpaying is profitable, it’s going to keep happening in future”, regrets the inspector.

Ravintola-alalla ja siivousalalla suurimmat ongelmat

Etelä-Suomen aluehallintoviraston (ESAVI) työsuojelun vastuualueen tarkastajan Katja-Pia Jenun mukaan ulkomaalaisvalvonnan tarkastuksia suunnataan eniten ravintola-alalle. Ja syystä, niissä myös esiintyy eniten ongelmia. Ravintola-alan osuus kaikista ulkomaalaisvalvonnan tarkastuksista Etelä-Suomessa oli noin 40 prosenttia viime vuonna.

Toiseksi suurin tarkistuskohde on rakennusala, kolmanneksi siivousala (vajaa 14 % ESAVI:n kaikista tarkastuksista v. 2017). Viranomaisvalvonnan merkeissä tarkastellaan säännöllisesti aloja sosiaali- ja terveysministeriön määräämien painopistealojen mukaisesti, eli rakennus-, teollisuus-, kiinteistöpalvelu-, majoitus- ja ravitsemus- sekä kuljetusalalla käydään. Vihjetietoon perustuva valvontaa on kaikilla toimialoilla.

Yllätyskäyntien määrä on Jenun mukaan kasvanut. Monesti poliisi, Tulli ja Rajavartiolaitos ovat mukana iskutarkastuksilla. Ulkomaalaisvalvonnassa keskitytään ensisijaisesti ulkomaalaisten työntekijöiden työnteko-oikeuteen ja työsuhteen vähimmäisehtoihin.

"Eli käytännössä työpaikalla tarkistetaan ulkomaalaislain asettamia velvoitteita, eli ovatko työluvat kunnossa, ja käydään läpi palkkalaskelmia ja työaikakirjanpitoa", Katja-Pia Jenu kertoo.

Valvontaan liittyy myös usein haasteita. Ei ole aina yhteistä kieltä, työntekijöillä on pelkoa työnantajaa kohtaan, ja työntekijöitä uhkaillaan tai kiristetään oleskeluluvalla ja kotimaahan lähettämisellä.

Ulkomaalaisten työntekijöiden kohdalla tavallisin syrjinnän muoto on yleensä alipalkkaus, eli työntekijä saa palkkaa, joka jää alle työehtosopimuksen vähimmäistason tai palkkaa maksetaan vähemmän kuin suomalaisille työntekijöille. Eniten puutteita havaittiin viime vuonna ravintola-alalla. Yli 50 prosentissa tarkastuksista havaittiin puutteita työehtosopimuksen noudattamisessa.

Vuonna 2017 havaittiin eniten puutteita liittyen työaikakirjanpidon pitämiseen ravintola-, rakennus- ja siivousaloilla, joista kaikissa työaikakirjanpito oli kunnossa ainoastaan vain noin joka kolmannella tarkastuksella, jossa asiaa oli valvottu.

"Tehdään ylipitkiä työpäiviä mutta kaikki työtunnit eivät välttämättä näy työnantajan esittämässä työaikakirjanpidossa, joten sellaisissa tapauksissa työntekijän omat työaikaseurannat ovat kullanarvoisia", mainitsee Jenu.

Viranomaisyhteistyö on keskeistä, koska poliisi arvioi esim. onko valvonnan yhteydessä esiintynyt työsyrjintää tai jopa ihmiskauppaa. Etelä-Suomen aluehallintoviraston työsuojelun vastuualue voi myös tehdä esityksen uhrin ottamiseksi Ihmiskaupan uhrien auttamisjärjestelmään, mikäli on syytä epäillä ihmiskauppaa. Kaikissa näissä tapauksissa on kyse talousrikkeistä ja rikoksista, ja usein käytetään hyväksi ulkomaalaistaustaisen riippuvaista asemaa tai turvatonta tilaa.
Joskus jopa armottomasti. Ihmiskaupan uhrien auttamisjärjestelmän mukaan myös kielteisten turvapaikkapäätösten saaneiden hyväksikäyttö alkaa näkyä työmarkkinoilla.

"Kun alipalkkaus on kannattavaa, niin sitä tehdään myös jatkossa”, harmittelee tarkastaja.

 

 

uutisen-teksti: Marie Sandberg-Chibani

 

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