Annual Winter Course on Forced Migration, 2007

Short Term Visiting Fellowship


Sanam Roohi and Ishita Dey
Research and Programme Associate, CRG

Their Visiting Report (23.03.08-30.03.2008)

Our short term Junior Research Fellowship was part of the Indo-Finnish exchange segment in the Fifth Winter Course on Forced Migration, 2007 and co-operation between the Tampere Peace Research Institute (TAPRI) and the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group. We would like to thank first and foremost Dr. Ranabir Samaddar and the course committee of the Fifth Winter Course on forced migration for giving us this opportunity to visit Finland.  We thank Prof. Tarya Vyrynen for providing us the opportunity to present our ongoing research work at TAPRI.  We would also like to thank our friends Juha Rudanko, Eeva Puumala and Tiina Kanninen for their cooperation during our stay in Tampere. We would specially like to Ksenia Glebova and Kaisa without whose able guidance we would have been completely lost in Helsinki. We would also like to thank Prof Julien Reid and Dr. Nathan Lillie for giving us some useful contacts to facilitate our study. 

During our stay at Tampere and Helsinki we interacted with scholars from University of Helsinki and TAPRI. We also presented our ongoing research work on Muslim women in Kolkata and Special Economic Zones in India. 

During our seven-day stay in Finland we conducted a short study on the temporary migrant workers in Finland. Our primary focus was on the condition of the temporary guest workers in the construction industry. The construction industry in Helsinki and neighbouring areas attract huge migrant labour from various states, mainly Estonia, Bulgaria and of late China. We consulted the documents on Estonian labour movement at SAK office. SAK is a confederation of 21 trade unions in industry, the public sector, transport and private services. These unions have a total of more than one million members. There are about 70 trade unions in Finland, most of which belong to one of the country's three major labour confederations. SAK is one of these confederations, and the other two are the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees - STTK and the Confederation of Unions for Academic Professionals in Finland - AKAVA. Through our detailed discussion with Eve Kyntäjä, Project Manager, The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK). She explained to us in detail the labour movement between Estonia and Finland. She explained to us the activities of the Information Point at Talliin. She said the information point in Talliin was an important beginning. The recruitment firms in Estonia hired Estonian workers at a cheaper wage rate compared to their Finish counterparts. The Estonian workers had no idea of working life in Finland and the information point has been able to guide the workers regarding the workers unions , contracts and other basic facilities. 

We also got a chance to interview two Bulgarian construction workers Krasimiz Kostadinov and Dimitiez Potzov through the Finish Construction Trade Union. They are working in a Firm called Minaret in Lohja. The Finish construction trade Union officials reported that despite stringent legal mechanisms to safeguard the migrant workers’ rights there are incidents of severe violations in the recent past. The Unions are trying to encourage migrant workers to join workers unions so that they could be provided legal assistance. In case of migrant workers, it becomes difficult to get access to legal services provided by the union because according to the rules of the union a worker is entitled for legal benefits after six months of the registration.  

Despite such conditions, increasingly migrant workers from Thailand and China are becoming visible in the berry picking and construction industry. Apart from berry picking and construction industry, migrants from Somalia and Iraq work at restaurants.  

We thank Nina Kretuzman, International Affairs Secretary from Rakensulitto – The Construction Trade Union for taking us to Lohja, arranging the interview and providing us with all the details regarding the construction industry. The whole experience was enriching and would not have been possible without the help of Vilja Junka and our friends at Helsinki.