HEUNI director interviewed by the magazine of Finland’s Industrial Union

Published 17.7.2018

In an interview for the magazine of Finland’s Industrial Union the director of HEUNI takes a stand that in Finland labour exploitation along with human trafficking remains an existing, yet not widely discussed problem. This claim is based on extensive research carried out over the previous decade. While only cases of severe exploitation reach the authorities as well as media, exploitation is occurring on a daily basis. This mundane exploitation includes underpayment and demanding long working hours from an employee using various methods such manipulation, threats and restricting one’s access to Finnish society.

HEUNI’s research has also pointed to the problem of exploitation supply chains. It is hard to assure oversight of a long chain of subcontractors, not only in complex global supply chains, but also in local ones. Dr Ollus also points out that according to some critical researchers, the structure of the limited liability company itself allows the directors and shareholders to avoid accountability: responsibility and fines are often carried by corporate middle management instead.

As a tool to tackle exploitation in local subcontracting chains HEUNI has introduced the “Guide to companies and employers for risk management", available in Finnish and Swedish. The guide includes a quick risk assessment using lists of indicators and questionnaires. The guidelines emphasize risk management not only as a human rights issue but also from the perspective of reputational risks. The HEUNI guidelines are built on guidelines developed in Denmark as a response to a large case of exploitation in the subcontracting chain of the second largest cleaning company in Denmark.

Dr Ollus also highlights that in Finland the decision-makers in the public sector, including those responsible for public procurement, should show in words and deeds that they do not accept the exploitation of workers and the trafficking of human beings. This is especially relevant as the State and municipalities procure e.g. construction and cleaning services for large sums annually. .

Likewise, citizens and trade union activists may be able to help foreign workers who were deceived and exploited, if they would look out and make responsible choices regarding the services they use and how people are treated there.

Read full interview in Finnish.