Obligations of the natural product collection sector operator

Obligations of the natural product collection sector operator - Yleistä

An operator in the natural products collection sector (hereinafter the operator) has an obligation to: 

  1. familiarise the collector with:
    a) the picking of natural products and the conditions in Finland
    b) legal relationship between the operator and the picker
    c) the rights and obligations of the picker in Finland
    d) everyman's rights
    e) parties that provide advice and legal protection
    f) aspects of natural products picking other than those referred to in points a to e
  2. monitor of the crop and contribute to the picking so that the picker has the opportunity to earn as much as possible
  3. provide the collector with accommodation that meets the requirements laid down in the Health Protection Act and appropriate catering
  4. keep inspected vehicles available for the picker so they can travel to picking sites and transport natural products
  5. keep picking equipment and gear available for the picker
  6. ensure that the picker is aware of the operator's valid minimum purchase prices for natural products and the costs for which the picker is charged, even before the picker arrives in Finland, in the case of an operator who invites the picker to Finland when they are applying for a visa
  7. keep the contact details of the authorities available to pickers so they can provide feedback on the operator
  8. notify the occupational safety and health authority of the location of the picker's bases in advance by filling in the online form.

Familiarisation of the picker

It is important that the picker is familiarised with the picking of natural products so that it can they pick effectively and safely and so that the picker knows which party to turn to when he or she needs advice or assistance in possible problem situations. It is also important that familiarisation takes place in a language that the collectors understand. However, as the picking of natural products is independent work, the working methods remain largely at the discretion of the pickers.

Monitoring the crop and contributing to earnings from picking

The operator has a duty to cooperate, i.e. the operator must monitor the crop and contribute to picking so that each picker has the opportunity to earn the maximum income possible. In practice, this cooperation obligation means that the operator must monitor the crop of natural products based on the crop forecasts by Natural Resources Institute Finland and other actors in the field as well as other up-to-date information. In addition, the operator must take into account the areas from which natural products have already been collected. Based on the information obtained, the operator must inform pickers of profitable crop areas.

The operator's duty to cooperate is important because it is not possible for foreign natural product pickers to carry out such an analysis. Compliance with the obligation to cooperate can be determined with feedback from pickers. The TE Office monitors the implementation of the operator’s duty to cooperate on the basis of feedback from the pickers.

Requirements for accommodation and catering

The operator must provide accommodation that meets the health requirements of housing and other residential buildings laid down in the Health Protection Act. Accommodation must also meet the requirements of the Health Protection Decree and the Decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on Health-related Conditions of Housing and Other Residential Buildings and Number of Residents  .

The appropriateness of catering means that the food on offer must be of good quality and that its calorie content correspond with the amount of energy consumed while picking. The operator must keep inspected vehicles available for the picker so they can travel to picking sites and transport natural products Likewise, the operator must keep the collection equipment and gear available to the picker.

Information on buy-in prices

The operator must ensure that the picker is aware of the current buy-in prices of natural products. Since the buy-in price of the natural products collected is also significant when the picker is considering whether to come to Finland, the buy-in price must be given to the picker before they leave their country of departure for Finland. In the absence of an employment relationship, it is not usually possible for the picker and the natural product collection sector operator to agree on a purchase price of the collected natural products. However, information on the buy-in price must be provided. In terms of the legal status of the picker, it is also important that the buy-in price supplied at the beginning of the collection does not decrease during the collection date. It is also essential that the picker has information about the costs he or she will be charged. This information should also be given to the picker before he or she arrives in Finland.

Feedback and notification of pickers’ bases

The operator must also ensure that the picker has the opportunity to provide feedback to the operator and to the competent authorities. This is ensured by obligating operators to keep the contact details of the authorities visible to pickers for the purpose of providing feedback. Direct feedback from pickers is an important means of monitoring and developing the activities of the collection of natural products. Competent authorities include the Occupational Safety and Health Authority, the TE Office and other authorities whose statutory supervisory tasks include matters related to the Act: Municipal environmental health care, building supervision and rescue authorities. 

In order to monitor compliance with the Act, the operator must notify the occupational safety and health authority of the pickers’ bases in advance. The pickers’ bases are camps for pickers where picked natural products are weighed and traded, food is prepared for pickers and vehicles and collection equipment are maintained and repaired. The pickers’ bases also serve as accommodation for pickers and centres where they are familiarised and provided guidance on the terrain. 

Advance notifications are submitted via the online form. If the location of the pickers’ base changes during the picking season, the operator must also submit an advance notification on the new base.

Payment of earnings and prohibition to charge expenses

The operator must arrange the up-to-date monitoring the accumulation of the picker’s earnings and pay the all the picker’s collection earnings before the picker leaves the country. 

The operator may not charge the picker: 

  1. a payment for recruitment or for services related to travel to and from Finland
  2. interest on possible financing of picker's travel expenses
  3. a payment for the completion of the obligations referred to in section 6, paragraphs 1 and 2
  4. an unreasonable payment for the completion of the obligations referred to in section 6, paragraphs 3-5.

In addition, the operator’s contractual terms must also include an obligation to ensure that the party or representative acting on behalf of the operator does not charge the picker the fee referred to in subsection 2. 

Fees the operator is forbidden to charge

It is strictly forbidden for the operator to charge a fee for familiarisation, recruitment, travel-related services when the picker travels to and from Finland or to charge interest for financing the collector's travel expenses. The operator may also not charge a fee for their duty to cooperate.

In addition, the operator or the party acting on their behalf is prohibited from charging unreasonably for accommodation, dining, vehicles, picking equipment or other equipment required for picking or other services related to the organisation of picking. Unreasonable means that the charge must not be clearly disproportionate to the service provided. Whether a cost is disproportionate must be assessed in relation to what the operator or the party acting on behalf of the operator can normally charge in similar connections. In addition, the costs charged must not exceed the actual costs incurred by the operator.

The prohibition on charging expenses related to the organisation of picking and to travel to and from Finland applies to the operator and the party acting on their behalf. The provision does not apply to statutory expenses related to the business activities of other service providers and traders. These include, for example, a visa fee, a fee for a medical examination, or the airline's ticket charge. In addition to the visa fee, the visa applicant is charged a service fee when visiting an external service provider's office. 

The monitoring of the payment of earnings and compliance with the prohibition on charging expenses is carried out on the basis of documents submitted by the operator afterwards. The documents are assessed by the TE Office and, if necessary, the TE Office will issue an opinion to the foreign mission or occupational safety and health authorities.

Tasks of the TE Office

The TE Office assesses whether the operator is reliable in the manner referred to in the Act. The evaluation shall be made at the request of the operator for one year at a time. The TE Office monitors the fulfilment of the requirements concerning reliability, the payment of the picker’s income and compliance with prohibition of charging expenses and will issue an opinion on these to the foreign mission or to occupational safety and health authorities at their request. 

Together with the occupational safety and health authorities, the TE Office provides advice on the rights of the picker, the reliability and obligations of the operator, and the payment of earnings and charging of expenses.

Obligations of the natural product collection sector operator - Lainsäädäntö