Rural Affairs Committee supports extending work permits of foreign workers

Tractor at work in an Estonian field.
Tractor at work in an Estonian field. Source: ERR

The Rural Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu discussed workforce issues in agriculture at a session on Monday and decided to support extending the work permits of foreign workers already in Estonia.

According to Chairman of the Riigikogu Rural Affairs Committee Tarmo Tamm (Center), the lack of available agricultural labor force; a highly topical concern in Estonia, has been alleviated by using foreign workers. "It is very difficult to rearrange work on short notice. Changes take time. We have to take into account that the crisis has changed the situation," Tamm said.

"We have to go over the provisions of the Aliens Act which emphasise that employers cannot extend the stay of foreign workers once their maximum allowed work time expires. The work permits of people already in Estonia who wish to continue working need to be extended at least until the emergency situation ends," he added.

Member of the committee Ivari Padar (SDE) said that to ensure food security during an emergency situation, rational decisions have to be made to solve the workforce issues in agriculture.

"We know that we have a shortage of local workforce in agriculture. During a crisis situation we should have to be more active and let people know of work opportunities in the countryside," Padar said.

He added that during a crisis we should avoid creating serious problems in agricultural production by restricting foreign employment.

Last Wednesday, the Ministry of the Interior presented a bill which would end the visas of unemployed workers from third countries (non-European Union citizens).

"This bill will create better tools for the government to control the availability of foreign workers in order to make employers prioritize the workforce of Estonian citizens and to create mechanisms for protecting the Estonian labour market," Ruth Annus, Head of the Citizenship and Migration Policy Department at the Ministry of the Interior told ERR then.

The right to work in Estonia will expire during April for 300 foreign workers working in the agricultural sector, and the food security of Estonia does not depend on 300 foreign workers who work in agriculture, Interior Minister Mart Helme (EKRE) said last Wednesday.


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Editor: Anders Nõmm

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