RIGA - A Swedish news radio program last week drew attention to a reported trend of unemployed and indebted Latvians and Estonians going to Sweden on the promise of paid work, but returning home unpaid, broke and exploited, reports Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR). The broadcast told the tale of a young Latvian man who traveled to Sweden in June to begin work for a company called Arvidsson & Sundling, starting work immediately upon arrival.
During his first month of work, the Latvian man worked 11-14 hours per day, up to 220 hours per month, at an ostensible wage of 8 euros per hour. As of last week, he had not been paid for his work. He survived in Sweden by borrowing money from home, in Riga.
Finally, the Latvian man went to the police, and to the Latvian Embassy in Stockholm. The company was reported to the authorities.
According to the radio program, the young Latvian’s story is part of a trend involving many other Latvians and Estonians who go to Sweden in search of employment.
Erik Leijonmark, a local researcher who has studied the plight of foreign workers, said there are less scrupulous Swedish companies that take advantage of high unemployment and heavy debt-loads in the Baltics.
These companies then sign text-heavy contracts with the job-hungry Estonians and Latvians. The contracts are written in obfuscatory language that the employee cannot necessarily understand, and with implications they cannot foresee.
For example, Leijonmark explained, some contracts have included clauses that waive the employer’s obligation to pay if the contractor’s duties are deemed unfulfilled. Such contracts lend themselves to broad and fuzzy interpretations.