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Labor exploitation and discrimination

What is labor exploitation?

The victim of labor exploitation is often a foreigner. A worker can be exploited at work for example when they don’t know their rights in the Finnish labor market, or if they are afraid of losing their right to stay in the country. Common forms of labor exploitation are for example:

  • the worker is paid less than they should be paid according to the law and collective agreement
  • the worker doesn’t get days off
  • the worker has to work long hours without proper compensation

Or:

  • the employer charges the worker for getting the job, for getting a residence permit, or for showing a higher income to Migri to get residence permits for family members
  • the worker doesn’t get sick leave when they are sick
  • the worker doesn’t have access to occupational health services
  • identity theft
  • bad living conditions, when the employer organizes housing for the employee

If the exploitation includes also restrictions of the employee’s freedom for example to have spare time, pressuring, threats of creating problems for the worker, making up debts or forcing to work for free to pay a debt, giving false information, making false promises or threatening with or using violence, it might fill the description of human trafficking.

When is a too low salary a crime?

In Finnish criminal law, labor exploitation is criminalized as for example work discrimination, extortionate work discrimination, aggravated usury or in its most severe form as human trafficking.

For example, it is a sign of work discrimination when a foreign employee is not paid all the salaries, extras (such as evening or Sunday salary supplements) or other compensation required by law or the relevant collective agreement, or if they have to work long hours without compensation. In work discrimination, the foreign worker is put in a worse position than Finnish workers.

If the employer only has foreign employees, the workers’ conditions are compared to normal labor market standards: in other words, against the conditions of employees in businesses that comply with the requirements of the collective agreement. In other words, it is possible for an employer to discriminate against all their employees.

At its mildest, underpayment can be criminal discrimination when the employer doesn’t pay foreign workers the legal supplements for evening work. If the employer doesn’t pay the complete basic salary or overtime compensation, as for example in cases where a worker works long hours on a regular basis, it can fill the criteria of extortionate work discrimination. An employer can be guilty of work discrimination based on national or ethnic origin even when the employer is themselves from the same background as the worker.

Who can I contact?

In addition to the police, cases of labor exploitation are investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. However, victims of criminal exploitation may be afraid to contact the authorities immediately.

If you are afraid or unsure if you should report to the authorities and would like more information, you can contact RIKU to discuss your case confidentially.

Possible victims of labor exploitation can get advice from RIKU on how to proceed and what it might mean to report the case to the authorities. Contacts with RIKU are completely confidential, and we do not let anyone know about your contacting us without your permission.

Contact:

  • Email: help@riku.fi (we will reply within 3 days)
  • By phone (also SMS or Whatsapp) +358 40 632 9293
  • Pia Marttila, Coordinating Senior Advisor, Assistance to victims of human trafficking, pia.marttila@riku.fi, 040 630 9669
  • Saara Pihlaja, Senior Advisor, Assistance to victims of human trafficking, saara.pihlaja@riku.fi, 040 621 2443
  • Katarina Iskala-Blomster, Senior Advisor, Assistance to victims of human trafficking, katarina.iskala@riku.fi, 040 620 1062

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