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HomeInformationExposing the Berry Picking Dilemma in Sweden: A Tale of Exploitation

Exposing the Berry Picking Dilemma in Sweden: A Tale of Exploitation

Berry picking in Sweden has become a vital part of the Scandinavian country’s economy, but it’s currently mired in controversy. There’s a troubling story of hard labor, low wages, and human rights violation hiding behind the juicy packets of berries found in supermarket aisles. Let’s delve into this issue impacting our tiny expat community and beyond.

Exploitation Behind the Sweets

The Swedish berries that line the shelves of Ica and Coop are often gathered by Thai migrants working in challenging conditions. They work grueling twelve-hour shifts every day for a measly wage of 37 SEK per hour – a fraction of what a caregiver earns in the country.

Fact Check: Ica and Coop collectively make up nearly 70% of the grocery trade in Sweden.

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Huddled around a fire in the frosty Västerbotten inland, these workers cook strips of moose meat gifted by local hunters each morning. Their only respite in a day dominated by the endless pursuit of berry gathering.

However, every fifth picker, going by their accounts, may return home without any profit after deducting travel, upkeep, and other associated costs. Even though these workers collect thousands of kilograms of berries without any break, they live in damp, moldy accommodations far from ideal living conditions.

The Human Face of the Issue

Exploitation extends beyond their meager pay. Their working agreement emphasizes an eight-hour day across five days a week, with two rest days. However, workers are not aware of these clauses as they weren’t given a copy of the agreement they signed back in Thailand.

“Why would we do that? We are here to work and make money. Our employer wouldn’t be pleased if we worked less.”

A Thai Berry Picker.

Concerns are also raised over the transportation cost they bear despite the collective agreement stating that the employer should handle local transportation. Workers suggest a daily 50 SEK deduction from their already tightly stretched earnings for fuel.

Supermarket Response

Coop Sverige’s Mattis Bergquist said, “We can’t solve it alone; it involves various stakeholders, including companies and authorities.” Ica Sverige and Coop Sverige confessed to being unaware of the extent of this problem. They believe it’s the responsibility of both the Swedish and Finnish authorities

Large grocery chains claim to be working towards collaborative action to alleviate these challenges. They are onboard for new rules restricting berry pickers from indebting themselves before they arrive in Sweden.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Thai berry pickers enrich our supermarket shelves and our lives by enduring hard labor in harsh conditions for meager pay. It’s crucial to realize this reality, pushing for improved conditions and fairer wages for these invaluable workers. Decisions we make and pressure we create as consumers can impact their lives significantly.

As expats living in Sweden, we can help by spreading awareness and pushing authorities and supermarkets to enforce stricter control and equitable treatment. It couldn’t be a more pertinent call to action as we relish the beloved Swedish dish, lingonberry jam, with our meals.

Remember, behind every berry, there’s a story.

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