Helsinki recruiting bus drivers from Estonia
Twenty or so new bus drivers from Estonia will begin their driving tests in Helsinki this week. Helsingin Bussiliikenne - a local bus service company owned by the City of Helsinki - found the new drivers last week through a recruitment campaign in the Estonian capital, Tallinn.
"Our aim is to recruit 20 to 30 new employees from Estonia", Helsingin Bussiliikenne personnel director Lilja Kinnunen explains. "If ten of them decide to opt for permanent employment, it makes this exercise worthwhile", she continues.
Estonian bus companies have followed the export of drivers with mixed feelings.
"From our firm, 27 drivers went to the recruitment meeting. Two of them have handed in their resignations", says managing director Riivo Seppar of a private bus company Sebe, which operates throughout Estonia.
"For us it is a problem. Usually the best drivers leave for Finland. Traffic safety suffers in Estonia, and we end up spending more money on repairs", Seppar adds.
According to Seppar, a rapid increase in wages is not an option, as the government supports have already been allocated in advance.
Tallinna autobussi koondis (TAK), a bus company owned by the City of Tallinn, is not overly concerned about the recruitment campaign by the Finns. The city increased its bus drivers' wages by 20 per cent at the beginning of August with anticipated positive results.
"Thanks to the recruitment campaigns by Helsingin Bussiliikenne, we have received a lot of attention in the media. Since the beginning of August, we have hired 30 new bus drivers", TAK information officer Sirje Roht reports. TAK drivers' wages have climbed by a massive 36 per cent in the last 12 months, and a number of drivers who earlier sought work in Finland and even in the U.K. have apparently returned home.
Last week's recruitment campaign in Tallinn was the first one of its kind by Helsingin Bussiliikenne. The meeting was attended by 170 Estonian bus drivers, 27 of whom subsequently turned up for an interview. The drivers who spoke Finnish were invited to the driving trials in Helsinki.
Usually older bus drivers with 20 to 30 years' experience land a job in Finland. Their net income in Helsinki would be around EUR 1,500-1,600 per month.
TAK pays its drivers take-home pay of about EUR 660 a month, which is EUR 200 more than what the private company Sebe pays. The figure of 660 euros is significant in the sense that it is the equivalent of 10,000 kroon (EEK), a magic figure that many Estonian opinion polls have shown to be an adequate monthly income in the country.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Helsinki City Transport plans major increase in its complement of ticket inspectors (12.9.2006)
Transport strikes cost millions of euros - drivers return to work (23.11.2004)
Bus strike spreads to local traffic in five cities outside Helsinki region (12.11.2004)
Drivers of three bus companies begin strike in Helsinki region (9.11.2004)