Following Sweden’s threat to halt the issue of seasonal working permits to Thai berry pickers due to accusations of unfair treatment by employers and job brokers, the Ministry of Labor has stated that it will begin discussions with Swedish officials.
On January 13, Swedish ambassador Jon Astrom Grondahl tweeted about the problem, noting that the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok will not assist berry pickers unless businesses ensure fair recruiting, safety requirements, and appropriate working conditions for Thai employees in Sweden.
In mid-December, Director-General Phairoj Chotikasatien met with the ambassador to address working conditions for Thai berry pickers. He added that the matter is fairly complex, including a lot of firms that buy berries from the farms that employed the laborers.
In recent years, the number of Thais wanting to work as berry pickers in Sweden and Finland has surged, with 6,000 Thais coming to these countries in 2022, up from 5,000 the previous year. However, the growth has also resulted in an increase in conflicts, with around 400 employees requesting that the government intervene as a mediator between them and their employers or recruiting firms.
According to Samarn Laodumrongchai, an expert at the Institute of Asian Studies, many Thai berry pickers wind up overstaying their visas and taking on other employment when they find they haven’t earned enough to settle their obligations.
Labor Minister Suchart Chomklin said he plans to call a conference shortly to explore a solution with relevant authorities.