Estonian parliament argues over harvest workers
With the strawberry harvest time coming up, a debate about employing seasonal workers has flared up in Estonia. Despite the calls of farmers and unlike in neighbouring countries, the government is still refusing to let harvest workers into the country due to the risk of infection. The national press criticises this stance and suspects that the far-right government party Ekre's ideological motives are behind it.
We need strawberries, not ideology
Ekre is scaring away its core voters, Eesti Päevaleht believes:
“Should we be surprised that the successor of the agrarian People's Union of Estonia is turning its back on Estonian agriculture in this difficult time? Not really, because Ekre has long been focussed on anything but farmers' concerns. Regarding seasonal workers, the party's logic lags behind and doesn't take note of the calendar. ... On the one hand the government is advising entrepreneurs to hire local workers, but then it makes this more difficult with its labour market policies. The system of compensating for lost earnings that will postpone a huge wave of layoffs until at least July is prevailing. ... In the context of this year's harvest, making practical decisions based on the xenophobia ideology is pure stupidity.”
Government jeopardising food safety
Õhtuleht warns of a greater dependence on imports:
“If our borders are open for the emigration of our workers but closed for the immigration of guest workers, the result will be a labour shortage. It is pointless to refer to the high unemployment figures because today's office workers can't be expected to do farm work. Estonia will hardly be able to cope any differently than the rest of Europe, where seasonal workers from cheaper countries are employed. Even before the war, Polish workers fulfilled the same role in Estonia. Now the governing coalition is jeopardising our food safety and giving food imports an advantage on the market while our own farmers are forced to shut up shop.”