Government parties still seeking compromise over migrant workers ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Centre Party, EKRE and Isamaa coalition agreement signing.
Centre Party, EKRE and Isamaa coalition agreement signing. Source: Aurelia Minev/ERR

The leaders of the coalition parties tried to find a compromise on the admission of migrant workers to Estonia on Friday night but without success. Party leaders will continue the debate over the weekend.

The opposition Reform Party and the Social Democrats have convened an extraordinary sitting of the Riigikogu on Monday with the aim of extending the work permits of third-country workers staying in Estonia until the end of the year.

EKRE does not support the extension. But Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) believe it will be possible to make exceptions for seasonal workers who are needed in the agricultural sector.

After the discussion on Friday, the leader of the Isamaa, Helir-Valdor Seeder, told ERR the leaders of the political parties had not reached an agreement but will continue to seek consensus over the weekend.

"We are still looking for a better solution than the bill, which should be discussed in the Riigikogu on Monday. This extension of temporary work permits until the end of the year is not a substantive solution to the problem, given that they work for shorter periods, new entrants cannot come here from third countries, so this is, in fact, a relatively formal approach to the problem, but not a substantive one. A more comprehensive and workable solution is needed. The government will certainly be discussing these issues over the weekend as well. Hopefully, a better solution has been found by Monday," said Seeder.

Seeder acknowledged the opposition's proposal is a solution, but the government is trying to find a better one.

Isamaa believes the best solution is to restore the pre-coronavirus situation while introducing health and safety requirements for workers from countries where the rate of infection is higher than 15. This would apply to countries such as Ukraine and Belarus where many of Estonia's short term workers come from.

"This would, on the one hand, meet the needs of business, employers, the economic sector, while maintaining a conservative labor policy," Seeder explained.

Estonia's borders are currently closed to the majority of third countries and migrant workers, even if the have been issued temporary work visas, are not being admitted to the country.

For several months farmers have said they cannot find the workers they need to pick their produce. EKRE has accused the farmers of trying hard enough to find Estonian workers and accused them of underpaying taxes and wages.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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