Ukrainian refugees being offered significantly lower wages than others

Old Town Square cafe hiring Ukrainian arrivals.
Old Town Square cafe hiring Ukrainian arrivals. Source: ERR

People fleeing the conflict in Ukraine have been able to find work, this is often at a fraction of the wage offered to local hires, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Sunday.

Wages for refugees as low as one quarter of that offered to a local worker have been reported, while the influx of Ukrainian people seeking work has caused confusion among employers, head of the confederation of trade unions (Ametiühingute Keskliit) Peep Peterson says.

He said: "The signals are coming from various parts of Estonia and from different walks of life. The most famous example is that of [medical company] Confido, where the employer might have been struggling to understand exactly what they are doing in terms of labor law."

While a skilled worker arriving from Ukraine during normal times would have been legally obliged to be paid at least the minimum wage, with refugees that requirement is not in place, AK reported.

The issue of what will happen to a Ukrainian worker whose work permit had expired has also bee discussed at the Riigikogu, Peterson said. "Our plea is to avoid creating a situation on construction sites, or anywhere else where, for example, a citizen of the Russian Federation earns 40 percent more, and try to ensure that people are treated in the same way."

The number of job offers available on online jobs market CV Keskus has almost doubled over the past few days, AK Reported, to around 600 advertisements, while the expectation is that recent Ukrainian arrivals would also be applying to some of these vacancies.

CV Keskus marketing manager Henry Auväärt. said: "Actually, there are job offers in practically all sectors. In catering, industry, as well as in the marketing and IT fields."

One employer who had hired people from Ukraine recently is the Kehrwieder cafe, in Tallinn's Old Town Square.

An English-language message on the cafe's blackboard (see cover image) stated that, if the individual reading it had sufficient language to understand the text, they had sufficient language skills for the job, AK reported.

As a result of the notice, one person, Liliana, from Kyiv, started working at Kehrwieder and was on her third day of work when AK spoke to her.

Liliana, who had worked as a music teacher in her home country, said: "I like it here because the people are very kind and help me in everything," adding that while she had arrived in Estonia with her daughter, the rest of the family had stayed in Ukraine.

Liliana said she does not know how long she would stay with the cafe, simply because noone knows what will happen in Ukraine or to the Ukrainian people.

Liliana's co-worker, Tiina, told AK that she had been doing very well so far, and added she had nothing to worry about.

According to coworker Tiina, Liliana is doing very well.

"Tell people that you are from Ukraine, that you on your first day of work, and everything will go fine," Tiina said.

Delivery firm Express Post said it had recruited three Ukrainians who had fled the conflict.

Katri Laanela, CEO of delivery firm Express Post, said that refugees were being employed on the same basis as everyone else.

She said: "Naturally, we employ Ukrainians on exactly the same conditions as Estonians and all others; we make no distinction. Exactly the same wages, the same conditions, everything applies to them," adding that of the three hires mentioned, two delivered the newspapers and one was involved in sorting.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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