Finnish union boycotts German firm over Polish worker wages

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A Finnish construction workers union said Thursday it had imposed a boycott on Beroa, a German subcontractor at the Rautaruuki metals plant in western Finland over substandard wages paid to Polish workers there.

"The boycott means that union organised Finnish workers don't work with companies employing underpaid workers and not abiding by Finnish laws," Kyoesti Suokas, the deputy director of the Finnish Construction Trade Union, told AFP.

The boycott, he said, should mean that "in the future, main contractors like Rautaruukki will not take on subcontractors involved in such fights with the Finnish union."

As for Beroa, "it will be difficult for them to work here because we will not work with them anymore," Kyoesti added.

The dispute centers on repair work carried out by Borea at a blast furnace plant in Raahe on the west coast, using more than 70 Polish workers.

Police and union representatives staged a joint inspection of the Raahe plant last week following a tip-off concerning salaries far below Finland's minimum wage of nearly 16 euros ($23) an hour.

"Eleven Polish workers were questioned by the police. The brick layers told them their hourly wage was between three and five euros per hour. They were forced to work 11 hours a day, seven days a week," Kyoesti said.

The Polish workers have already completed their contract and most have returned to their home country, he said, adding: "Now we keep the action going to make sure all these workers get their proper wages in the end."

Borea's representative in Finland, Kaj Hellstroem, flatly rejected the union's allegations.

"We pay on average 15.92 euros an hour. Anyone who claims otherwise has it wrong," he told the Helsingin Sanomat daily's website Thursday.

He said he was confused at the boycott, since his company had responded the the union's questions within a set deadline and had asked for further clarifications from the union.

"It is also strange to question the workers on Tuesday, when payday is on Wednesday," he told the paper.

© 2011 AFP

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