In a couple of months, the strawberries will be ripe, but the strawberry producers are struggling to get the manpower they need to pick the berries. “I have tried to get hold of Norwegian workers, but few have signed up. If I do not get more, then I have so few pickers that then I think I do not bother to pick this year,” says strawberry producer Einar Glesne to Drammens Tidende.
Together with his son Tor Gunnar Bjøre, they produce 150 tonnes of strawberries in Krødsherad every summer, but this year large parts of the crop are in danger of falling apart if they do not get enough labour. “The Norwegians are here maybe for three, four days, and then they say that the job is too hard, so they do not bother anymore and quit. They get money from Nav anyway. The foreigners are here to get money, and earn well if they are efficient”, says Glesne.
Youth could pick
Nav states that one of the challenges for inexperienced workers in agriculture is that piecework wages are practiced there. “In some cases, the unemployment benefit can be higher than the salary new employees will receive from the food producers. The final salary then depends on how much you produce. Not everyone is able to produce enough to reach the minimum wage or the level they want in unemployment benefits,” says Ingar Heum, department director for service development at Nav Vestre Viken.
The Arbeiderpartiet, on the other hand, believes that young people can step in to ensure that the strawberries end up in the baskets. Nils Kristen Sandtrøen, agricultural policy spokesman for the Arbeiderpartiet, believes it is wrong, as some strawberry producers claim, that people do not bother to work in the strawberry field because they get money from Nav anyway. As a general rule, 17-year-olds in upper secondary school have nothing to do with Nav. They get no money from there. Sandtrøen believes that the problem lies in the fact that the government does not allow Nav to recruit out in upper secondary schools. “Thus, a strange situation arises where several thousand young people now need summer jobs, agriculture needs several thousand hands in work this summer, but no one takes overall responsibility for the obvious task of connecting these in a proper way,” says the APS agricultural policy spokesman to NTB.
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