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13.05.2024 15:33

Learning Finnish and rights in working life together

The PAM peer network participants in Helsinki-Uusimaa region have started a Language club.

—One of the problems that always arises from the participants is the language barrier and the need to know more Finnish for better possibilities in the working life. So, when the idea of language club was proposed everyone was enthusiastic about it, explains network member Ditmar Hasanaj.

The language club will meet every Tuesday at 5 pm until 18 June at PAM main office in Helsinki.

—The Language club is for all immigrants working in service industries, free of charge. You don’t even need to be a PAM member to join, says Mr. Hasanaj.

Another member of the peer network, Mrs. Ruby Cornejo, doesn’t speak much Finnish yet and looks forward to the language club as her child is starting to speak.

— It’s great to have a place to practice.

The idea of the language club is to give everyone the opportunity to speak Finnish and learn by talking with each other and by following the lessons of the coordinator.

—There is no pressure and you can learn at your own pace, says Mr. Hasanaj .

Looking to make an impact

Ruby Cornejo originally joined PAM in case she needed protection against an employer, but with the government’s policies her view has changed.

—Unions can have broad impact in society and that is another reason it is important to be a member. That way they can hear us, explains Mrs. Cornejo, for whom the big rally against government cuts in February was eye-opening.

Mrs. Cornejo has been union representative at the cleaning company where she works for a few months. When first asked about becoming union representative she declined.

—I’m not an educated person and I only speak a little Finnish so, at first, I said no. But then they told me it’s not a problem and it really is not the main challenge. I have learnt a lot and get support from PAM when I need it, she says.

Coming together and reaching out

Mr. Hasanaj signed up for the peer network because he feels immigrants in Finland need a place to come together and learn about working life and rights in the workplace.

—This was the perfect opportunity to do so. As the number of immigrants grows in different sectors, we need to have stronger representation and union protection.

Reaching out to immigrant workers is important for Mr. Hasanaj, who is a lawyer by education.

—Because of the language and cultural barriers and the power imbalance between employers and their immigrant employees, immigrants are at great risk to be exploited in the workforce. My personal goal is to be able to reach these people, help them understand the perks of unionizing and teach everyone about their rights. I hope one day I can do this as a career, he says.

Read more about PAM peer networks and the Helsinki-Uusimaa Language club at