Most enquiries received by the employee rights advisory service for immigrants in its first operating year came from cleaners, table waiting staff or assistants. The advisory service is provided free of charge by the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK).

Service sectors account for half of all enquiries to the employee rights advisory service for immigrants

Most enquiries received by the employee rights advisory service for immigrants in its first operating year came from cleaners, table waiting staff or assistants. The advisory service is provided free of charge by the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK).

More than half of all foreign callers were working in a service industry. About one fifth of enquiries concerned the collective agreement for real estate services, 17 per cent involved the collective agreement for the hotel, restaurant and leisure industry, and 14 per cent were related to the collective agreement for the private social services sector.

A comparison of the number of callers to the number of foreigners working in various sectors suggests that employees in private social services have been more likely to contact the advisory service since it opened in March of last year.

“This is not a surprising finding, as most foreigners tend to find their first jobs in Finland in the service sectors. Their language skills and familiarity with the ground rules of the working world will not necessarily be very advanced at this stage,” explains employee rights advisory service lawyer Niko Ohvo.

“Most enquiries are made in English, and many employees have problems understanding the terms and conditions of employment contracts written in Finnish. It would be helpful if these documents could be translated into English.”

Most employees contacting the advisory service come from other European countries. Compared to the origins of the foreign population of Finland, employees from African countries are most likely to contact the service, whereas Estonian employees have the corresponding lowest rate of enquiries.

“Estonians and other immigrants from the near-abroad tend to integrate more rapidly into the Finnish job market. They also tend to be better organised. Most of our callers are not members of a trade union,” Ohvo says.

Ohvo explains that foreign employees tend to have the same basic employment concerns as their Finnish colleagues.

14 per cent of enquiries concern employment contracts, 13 per cent relate to wages and 9 per cent of callers ask about unemployment benefits.

“Europeans are mainly worried about wage entitlements, whereas employees from African and Asian countries tend to ask about immigration regulations,” Ohvo points out.

There were 217 enquiries in the first year and the number has been increasing, particularly in the spring and early summer.

The employee rights advisory service for immigrants is part of the At Work in Finland project subsidised by the European Social Fund ESF and administered by the City of Helsinki. Other partners besides SAK are the cities of Espoo and Vantaa, Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council, Uusimaa Employment and Economic Development Office, Uusimaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce, and the Moniheli Network of Multicultural Associations.

The advisory service is also subsidised by Service Union United PAM and the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL. The project will continue until the end of August 2018.

SAK employee rights advisory service for immigrants: www.sak.fi/workinfinland