At the beginning of this year, the responsibility for the administration of labour migration matters was transferred from the Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. The reason for this was Finland’s genuine need to attract skilled labour from abroad and to shorten the often unreasonably lengthy permit processes.
When I presented the initiatives launched by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment to the media on 14 February, I also outlined a key principle that must be followed with no exception: Labour migration is acceptable only if we follow the rules of the Finnish labour market. Any and all shortcomings must be addressed.
The media has recently voiced concerns regarding the restaurant sector, specifically regarding suspected abuse of foreign labour force. From the society’s perspective, the events described in the extensive article published in Helsingin Sanomat constitute misuse of the system. People who have trusted the Finnish society and believed in its fairness and justice have been abused and betrayed.
Labour migration is acceptable only if we follow the rules of the Finnish labour market. Any and all shortcomings must be addressed.
Finnish criminal law allows us to intervene in discrimination at work that almost qualifies as extortion, and trafficking in human beings. Problems typically arise with the implementation of law. It is important that we take action urgently to set up a task force within the police to fight against trafficking in humans, as stated in the Government Programme. No person within the jurisdictional area of Finland should find themselves in a situation where they fall outside the scope of legal protection.
Combating the grey economy is a central objective of this Government. This work is being coordinated under my leadership by a steering group on combating the grey economy. We will take steps to intervene in intentional or grossly negligent underpayment. The introduction of a tax number system and automated financial administration systems in the restaurant sector can also prevent misconduct.
We have also explored the possibility of introducing an accreditation system for companies that use foreign labour. This model would give preferential treatment to reliable and stable employers, allowing them to recruit employees faster. In this context, it might be advisable to consider imposing stricter regulations on employers with a history of problems with recruitment. Monitoring and sanctions must be stepped up as necessary.
Under current legislation, TE Offices are allowed to refrain from issuing new work permit decisions to employers who have neglected their obligations. However, there are some inconsistencies with the application of the law. As part of our labour migration measures, I have asked the Labour Migration and Integration Unit of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment to prepare instructions for TE Offices on how to make refraining decisions. Implementation of these instructions will, in time, indicate whether legislative amendments are also called for.
Tuula Haatainen, Minister of Employment