Commissioned by the Ministry of Finance, the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations (HEUNI), has produced a guide for risk management in national supply chains for public procurement agencies in Finland titled Labour Exploitation and Public Procurement. Public procurement agencies include the central government and municipalities, which are required to comply with the Act on Public Procurement and Concession Contracts. The guide has been prepared in connection with the Action plan for effective public procurement and the implementation of the Procurement Finland Strategy.
“By protecting workers’ rights, we improve employee wellbeing and the position of responsible companies and organisations. It is essential to ensure that workers’ rights are not violated in public procurement. This requires expertise from the procurement agencies. The purpose of the new guide is to provide support in these issues,” says Minister of Local Government Sirpa Paatero.
The guide provides information on of exploitation of migrant workers and human trafficking in Finland, and advice on how to react when cases of labour exploitation are suspected or encountered. The guide also proposes measures for the prevention of exploitation at different stages of the procurement procedure. Similar guidelines for preventing labour exploitation have not been published before in Europe, which gives Finnish contracting entities a unique opportunity to be forerunners in human rights responsibility matters.
Labour exploitation of migrant workers occurs also in Finland
Prevention of labour exploitation and human trafficking is especially important in the procurement process in high-risk sectors such as cleaning, construction and restaurants. Measures will help contracting entities to prevent all forms of exploitation, including labour violations and more severe offences, and promote fundamental principles and rights at work. This will also improve fair competition between companies, equality, and equal treatment, and it will increase compliance with labour law and statutory obligations related to terms of working conditions.
“It is important that concrete tools are provided to those involved in the practicalities of procurement. Closer cooperation between different authorities is also required so that contracting entities are not left alone in the process,” says Tiina Ekholm, Procurement Director at the City of Vantaa.
Types of labour exploitation identified in Finland include underpayment, forcing employees to work in substandard conditions, and situations related to discrimination and extortion and human trafficking. Exploitation can be difficult to identify, and even victims might be unaware that they are being exploited due to misleading or they might be reluctant to bring problems to light due to fear of consequences. Human rights violations have typically occurred in long subcontracting chains that are difficult to oversee.
“It is important to understand and recognise that problems are not limited to global supply chains. Contracting entities can prevent labour exploitation by clarifying roles and responsibilities, by specifying obligations through contracts, and by improving supervision. I hope that this guide will encourage contracting entities to examine their own subcontracting chains more closely and help them look what may lie beneath the surface,” says Anni Lietonen, researcher at HEUNI.
More information about socially responsible procurement available in webinars (Finnish language) next year
The guide is available online in Finnish, Swedish and English, and it can be downloaded free of charge on the websites of HEUNI and Procurement Finland. For a printed version, please contact HEUNI.
The Ministry of Finance, HEUNI and Hansel will organise webinars (finnish language) on socially responsible procurement in 2022. These webinars are based on the Labour Exploitation and Public Procurement guide and on the common minimum targets for social responsibility to be published by Hansel by the end of the year. The webinars will be held on 18 January and 10 February.
- Lauri Finér, Special Adviser to the Minister of Local Government, tel. +358 295 530 283, lauri.finer(at)gov.fi
- Anni Lietonen, Researcher, HEUNI, tel. +358 50 411 67, anni.lietonen(at)om.fi
- Tarja Sinivuori-Boldt, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Finance tel. +358 295 530 433, tarja.sinivuori-boldt(at)gov.fi
- Katariina Huikko, Senior Legal Counsel, Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, tel. +358 50 566 4327, katariina.huikko(at)kuntaliitto.fi