Solidarity for cleaners!

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Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest daily, published yesterday a very thorough investigative article by Paavo Teittinen about the systematic exploitation, abuse and threatening of workers in the cleaning business. Teittinen’s article shows how certain cleaning companies take advantage of the vulerable position of refugees, who may be unaware of the Finnish legislation and who fear deportations. The immediate and gross crimes mentioned in the article must be investigated promptly.

The problem however is, as the article shows, a structural one: large buyers, like municipalities and chains, get their cleaning where they get if the cheapest. The clients often do not care about wrong-doings, and even if they do, they have limited means to address them. Similarly, the article shows how officials often act indifferently towards immigrant workers, dismissing their problems and telling them to ‘get better jobs’.

The article also mentions how fake freelancing and models of the platform economy have crept into the cleaning services. These models are familiar to us couriers as well, and Teittinen too has written an article about our position. This also points out to an issue we have long since addressed, namely when wrong-doings and exploitation on one sector is allowed, are they quickly adopted on other sectors as well. The article shows what we too have been sainyg: punishing individual wrong-doers is not enough, but solving the problem requires larger political decisions aimed to protect workers and especially those in the most vulnerable position.

The exploitation and violence encountered by the cleaners is worse and more gross than what us couriers have experienced. As many food delivery couriers are of immigrant background and thus in a more precarious position on the labour market, we are painfully aware of the fear of the cleaners and we commend those who bravely spoke up. Direct and structural racism is an acute problem in Finnish society. There can be no defense of worker rights without active anti-racism.

Our full support to cleaners and other maintenance workers who along with couriers keep the cogs of this society turning! We demand that decision makers act to root out systemic exploitation and encourage all workers to organize, because ultimately our best protection is our mutual solidarity!

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