At its extraordinary session, the Riigikogu discussed the Bill on Amendments to the Aliens Act (mitigation of the labour crisis) (192 SE), initiated by the Estonian Reform Party Faction. The Bill provided that the work permits of the foreign employees who were employed in Estonia as at 17 March were to be extended until 31 December 2020. The Riigikogu rejected the Bill at the first reading.
The aim of the Bill was to keep the foreign labour already employed in Estonia so that it would help fill the gaps in demand that could not be filled with Estonian residents upon suspension of the free movement of labour. The situation is the worst with seasonal jobs in agriculture, but the loss of foreign labour is also irreparable in the construction sector, industry, social welfare and elsewhere.
During the debate, the representatives of factions Ivari Padar (Social Democratic Party), Kersti Sarapuu (Centre Party), Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa), Jaak Valge (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Kaja Kallas (Reform Party) took the floor.
Padar said that the expulsion of foreign labour on 31 July would obviously be an ill-considered political caprice. Therefore the Social Democratic Party Faction would support the proceedings on the Bill. Sarapuu commended the Government’s decision that morning on the resolution of the foreign labour problems. In her opinion, the Bill was not sustainable in terms of the resolution of the situation. Seeder explained the decision made at today’s Government sitting, according to which the pre-coronavirus situation in the use of foreign labour would be restored if the use of foreign labour complied with the medical examination requirements. Valge said that the Estonian Conservative People’s Party could not vote for the Bill because the import of cheap labour enhanced the facilitation of the settlement of people of Slavic background in Estonia. In his opinion, the use of cheap labour keeps our overall remuneration low, while at the same time Estonia is haunted by unemployment that should be resolved at the expense of internal reserves. Kallas expressed her delight that the opposition’s pressure had borne fruit and the Government had been forced to propose their solution that day. The decision proposed by the Government today is a solution to a problem they themselves have created. The greatest concern is that, with its activities, the Government will turn the country into an enclosed province. If the Bill were to be rejected from the legislative proceedings, a situation might arise where a large number of cows would remain unmilked.
The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. The result of voting: 52 votes in favour and 42 against. The Bill was dropped from the proceedings.
The video recording of the sitting can be viewed later on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
Photos: (Author: Erik Peinar)
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