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Easing working rights for foreigners gains support

06 Oct 2017, 02:43 ( 06 Oct, 2017) | updated: 06 Oct 2017, 02:45 ( 06 Oct, 2017)

DF-Xinhua Report
DF File Photo.

A majority of the members of parliament of Finland wants to stop the practice of requiring a labor market assessment prior to giving a work permit to persons from outside the European Union and the European Economic (ETA).

 So far, non-EU/ETA citizens can get a work permit only if labor authorities agree that the recruitment does not hamper employment of EU citizens. The present system is not applied to specialist level job seekers and only concerns lower level workers.

The parliamentary members' initiative was handed in earlier this week with signatures of more than a 100 MPs out of the total of 200. The initiative says the current system causes more harm to the labor market than good, according to media reports on Wednesday and Thursday.

The first signatory of the initiative, MP Anna Kontula of the Vasemmistoliitto (Left Alliance) , said the current system decreases the autonomy of employees.

In the current system, a non-EU worker gets a permit for one specific job. He or she cannot change jobs without a new clearance. In this situation, the worker is more prone to accept a low salary, the signatories maintain.

The issue of opening the labor market to ordinary workers from outside the EU/ETA has been controversial in recent years.

The idea was earlier promoted by pro-business think tanks. Therefore, the lately support from the political left surprised many.

The initiative attracted signatories from the whole political spectrum except the ruling Suomen Keskusta (Centre Party), the anti-immigration Perussuomalaiset (Finns Party) and the break-away Sininen tulevaisuus (Blue Reform).

The plan has split political parties. For example, chairman of the Vasemmistoliitto (Left Alliance) Li Andersson did not sign "due to the resistance on the unions".

The plan has met strong political resistance from the trade unions.

 The central organization of blue collar workers SAK opposed the idea of giving up assessment of the labor market needs "at a time unemployment is high in Finland and  the control of employment conditions is superficial".

The signatories maintain however, that if a non-EU employee is not tied to one job, he or she can better defend his or her rights better either through trade unions or asking labor protection officials to help. Arrivals would still need a work permit and control of the contract.

In neighboring Sweden, labor market assessment requirement has been given up. Finnish unions refer to the complaints from Swedish labor unions that the "free entry" has increased the vulnerability of non-EU workers and also the illegal purchases and sales of work permits.

Parliamentary initiatives with a majority have a good chance of becoming law. Having just been handed in, the processing schedule of the initiative is not known at this time.