Finland pledges more protection to immigrant workers

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HELSINKI, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- Finland has pledged more protection to foreign labor, as Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen on Thursday described the current situation as "unfair to the foreign workers."

A working group set up by Haatainen in March is proposing that punitive fines be issued to employers in Finland found to be exploiting foreign workers, national broadcaster Yle reported in an online story.

According to the working group, the exploitation of foreign labor is not a marginal phenomenon in Finland and indifference to the problem must be stopped, Yle said.

The authorities in Finland have been aware of exploitive practices, but lack effective tools to directly deal with abuses in most cases, Yle reported.

The general public became more aware of the issue earlier this summer when the Helsinki daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported on the widespread exploitation of foreign workers in the cleaning industry. The paper has also published reports highlighting the exploitation of employees in some ethnic restaurants, Yle said.

"As we have learned from the media, the situation at its worst means not only non-payment of social security fees, but also serious exploitation to foreign workers," Haatainen said at a press conference.

She said that new measures are needed also to "protect the reputation of law-abiding employers."

"Media coverage has raised doubt among consumers about the honesty of Finnish businesses on the whole," Haatainen said, adding that employment-based immigration will only be promoted if accompanied by labor protection measures.

According to the employment ministry working group, abusive practices are not limited to the cleaning and restaurant industries, but have also been found in the construction sector, seasonal agricultural work and the IT sector, among others, Yle said. Enditem

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