TALLINN - Helsinki's municipal bus company has announced it was preparing to launch a recruitment campaign in Estonia for drivers. Finland's leading daily paper, Helsingin Sanomat, reported that Helsingin Bussiliikenne is experiencing a shortage of drivers and had plans to recruit new ones from across the Gulf of Finland.
According to the paper, one out of five bus drivers in the Helsinki area is either Estonian or Russian. Helsingin Bussiliikenne, the municipal bus company, employs 200-300, and the Connex and Concordia companies employ 130 and 150 Estonians and Russians, respectively.
Connex manager Ilkka Loimusto said Estonian bus drivers are increasingly eager to work in Finland. In Tallinn a driver earns 660 euros a month whereas in Helsinki the minimum monthly wage is 2,004 euros, plus various perks.
The Tallinn municipal bus company, Tallinna Autobuss-ikoondis, is being forced to raise drivers' wages this month by a fifth to 10,000 kroons (640 euros) on average, since many drivers have been leaving and the firm is no longer able to serve all bus routes.
Jaanus Mutli, chairman of the firm's supervisory council and deputy mayor, said two raises this year have not helped the firm with the shortage of drivers.
The personnel manager of Helsingin Bussiliikenne, Lilja Kinnunen, does not believe the bus drivers' pay raise in Estonia will lure many Estonian drivers back from Helsinki, though this could make finding new drivers in Estonia more difficult.
In general, the growing recruitment of Estonian laborers is putting pressure on the country's labor market, where unemployment has reached an all-time low and wages are rising rapidly.
Last month the Statistical Office stated that problems would arise in the future due to the shrinking size of Estonia's working-age population and that the country would either have to import laborers or increase productivity.
"The simplest would be to bring in labor, of course, but together with it new social problems would arise, such as that imported workforce of the same age will enter pension age at the same time too," Mihkel Servinski, chief analyst with the Statistical Office, was quoted as saying.
Earlier this year Finland voted to open up its labor market to new EU member states. In response, Estonian and Finnish trade confederations signed a cooperation agreement in May so that Estonians and Finns moving across the gulf to work had equal rights.