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Lack of manpower - a problem for all
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Lack of manpower - a problem for all

| Text Carl-Gustav Lindén, Photo Tulikki Holopainen

Sergo Teider-Lastikka says it makes no real difference that his countrymen will soon be free to seek work in Finland, when the country opens her border to workers from the new EU member states. He has not seen much of the limitations which have been in place for the past two years either.

"For us it's all the same, the transition period has not meant any problems. Finnish sub contractors have hired labour from me, the law is like a Swiss cheese", says Teider-Lastikka, who has more than two hundred people working in Finland.

"We have 64 people in the construction industry, 37 in IT and the rest in various industries."

Sergo Teider-Lastikka is Estonian, but lives in Helsinki where he runs his group of businesses. And business is good. He says he has seven American Lincoln cars and one Chevrolet Suburban, as well as two private planes - which he is now selling to Russia. To celebrate his imminent pilot's licence, he's planning to buy a new one.

"I'm in such a hurry, it's easier to fly your own plane if you need to get somewhere quickly"

When Estonia became an EU member state in May 2004, he organised work for his countrymen via an ‘association for foreign workers’.

It turned into a manpower agency.

"There is a group of businessmen who are into short working contracts, they don't care about insurance and don't fix living quarters. When honest workers try to get papers, these people get in the way and the longer the time from the deal is signed until the job starts, the greater the risk."

Many workers are also tricked or given lower wages than they are entitled to. Foreigners who don't come from the 'old' EU will most often get a work permit in Finland, but the process can take several months. Labour authorities must first check whether it is possible to find Finnish unemployed who can do the job. No work permit is needed for jobs of less than six

weeks duration. That also applies if the worker is employed by a foreign company and hired in to do the job.

But according to Teider-Lastikka, Finland can't afford to shut people out, since the lack of manpower is becoming acute everywhere, also in Finland.

"ln Estonia the joke is that if you've got one arm and can sign a work contract, you're fit to work."

The shipyard in the capital Tallinn has applied for 1000 work permits for Ukrainian welders to replace the Estonians who have moved abroad. Workers who perform crucial tasks in for instance ship building, like specialist welders, are sought after world-wide.

But there aren't many of them. In ten years some ten thousand welders have been educated in Estonia. One third of them remain in the trade, but fewer than 500 are competent and some 50 belong to the elite.

"In Italy there's a great demand for Estonian welders. Yesterday I spoke to an employer who has ISO welders and a five year tender from Italy, but he's already tied up in FinIand."

Most workers from the new member states go abroad with the view of making easy money, and then return home. On the other hand, the wages aren't necessarily everything. Sergo

Teider-Lastikka mentions two welders who returned to Klaipeda in Lithuania after four years in Åbo.

"In Finland they got 1.900 Euro net, in Klaipeda 900 Euro, but they have no mortgages and wanted to go home to live their own lives. Nothing could keep them here. And then everything is cheaper in Lithuania."

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