Trade unions: Ukrainian refugees must be treated equally in the labour market

Following several reports that the Ukrainian war refugees in Estonia are offered up to four times lower salaries than the locals, the Confederation of Estonian Employers, the Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions and the country’s social affairs ministry issued a joint statement in which they call on all employers, trade union members and other workers to treat war refugees in a “humane manner”.

The unions said the reception of Ukrainian war refugees and the worsening global economic environment because of Russia’s military action against Ukraine also had a significant impact on the Estonian labour market.

“Ukrainian war refugees are victims of Putin’s regime, and we must treat them equally and with dignity in Estonia. Many of them are looking for work in Estonia to support themselves and their families. Finding a suitable job will also help them to integrate more quickly into society and contribute to the development of our country. We stress that war refugees must be offered equal working conditions with Estonian residents, including fair pay commensurate with their skills and abilities,” the organisations said in a statement, calling on “all employers, trade union members and other workers to treat war refugees in a supportive and humane manner”.

“We unequivocally condemn unequal treatment of workers from other countries, offering worse working conditions or lower pay than would be offered to local people for equivalent work. We support the empowerment of the Estonian Labour Inspectorate to prevent even individual cases of mistreatment of workers and to prevent violations of the law.”

The unions also stressed that the public services needed by war refugees “must be provided as quickly as possible”, without unnecessarily hassle, and “every effort must be made” to ensure that refugees are aware of their rights, opportunities and the rules of the Estonian labour market.

Estonia has accepted over 27,000 Ukrainian refugees since 27 February.

Read also: Updates: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – reactions in Estonia.

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