Finnish union fears new waves of COVID-19 with borders reopening

13 May 2020 13:11

Rakennusliitto, the Finnish Construction Workers’ Union, is concerned about the risk of exposure to COVID-19 on job sites and in accommodations and a possible “second wave” if the country is re-opened to Schengen countries as scheduled on 14 May. They argue that there are not yet strong, effective health and safety protections for construction workers. 

The union expects many migrant workers, especially from Estonia, to go home to their families or return to Finland to work while observing “voluntary quarantine”. It said that this could trigger a new wave of COVID-19 infections and endanger the health and safety of construction workers. 

Rakennusliitto said that the call for workers to observe “voluntary quarantine” means little if they are not provided with proper transportation and accommodation as well as safe and healthy working conditions. The union explained that migrant workers are vulnerable as construction companies usually house them in crowded conditions in small apartments shared with other people. On construction sites, physical distancing is not strictly implemented.  

Since the start of the health crisis, the union has maintained close contacts with its members, including migrant workers who decided to stay in Finland before the borders closed. It has provided full support to migrant and non-migrant construction workers by helping them secure their jobs and incomes, taking care of their sick relatives and informing them of their rights when traveling abroad or in case of sickness and quarantine. Special attention has also been given to laid-off construction workers by ensuring that they are entitled to daily allowances from the construction industry’s unemployment fund.

Rakennusliitto also created a COVID-19 section on its website which provides construction workers with the latest information in Finish, Swedish, English, Russian, Estonian and Polish languages. 

As of 13 May, Finland has 6,003 COVID-19 cases and 275 deaths.