Scamp beat out 18 other contestants who showed off their droopy tongues, bowed legs, perpetually confused looks and other strange attributes. The contestants got to walk the red carpet and preen for adoring fans at Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in the heart of Northern California wine country.
Third place went to Tostito, a Chihuahua whose damaged ears and droopy tongue make him look like he just stuck his foot into an electrical socket. Everyone knows ugliness is in the eye of the beholder and, to a dog lover, there is no such thing as an uncomely canine. Weird-looking, maybe. Appearance-challenged, perhaps. Like Willie Wonka, a sweet-natured pit bull abandoned after he was discovered to have a genetic malady that left his legs so bowed he could barely walk.
Devi and Hemraj, and later others, brought in relatives from Gulmi to work in their restaurants. After that, they brought in relatives of relatives, and then other Nepalis. Last year, in an interview with a Nepali TV channel, Devi claimed that he had brought a total of 1, Nepali workers to Finland.
Many of his workers later went on to set up their own restaurants, for which more workers were brought in from Nepal. Hemraj Sharma is considered one of the most influential restaurant owners. Devi Sharma confirmed the investigation, but both he and Manju say the accusation is baseless. I am the number one Nepali taxpayer in Finland. This is just jealousy. One Nepali, who has observed the restaurant business in Finland for years, said that the owners exchange information frequently.
In interviews with the Sanomat, Finnish police officials said exploitation in the restaurants is a familiar phenomenon. According to Immonen, the restaurant owners can threaten workers and their families back in Nepal, sometimes in brutal ways. According to a statement given by one cook who was accepted into the assistance system for victims of human trafficking, a restaurant owner told them that it is easy to kill a person in Nepal.
Some Nepali workers told the Sanomat that their employers often sent them to work for an owner of a different restaurant. One cook was even sent to an entirely different city. According to Immonen, the restaurant owners often make recruiting trips to Nepal. With the help of social media, family relatives and other networks, new recruits are constantly brought to the country after the owners make a deal on how much the recruits have to pay to get a job in Finland.
For some people, the owners paint a false image of what life in Finland will be like, said Immonen. But often, these promises are never kept. At the moment, Victim Support Finland has 11 Nepali clients.
Devi and Manju admit that if another owner needs advice on running a business or hiring a worker, they will help. They, however, denied that the owners coordinate when it comes to the treatment of workers, working conditions, recruitment or other activities.
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This happens among Nepali restaurants too. Hemraj Aryal also denied coordination between restaurant owners. Both said that they have never heard of owners blacklisting workers who have tried to improve their working conditions. All three owners said that their restaurants adhere to the law and collective bargaining agreements. But the biggest fear for many Nepali workers is not finding work in Finland—they are more concerned that they might have to return to Nepal. This fear, officials say, is the biggest reason the exploitation stays hidden.
The workers, particularly the cooks, receive a Finnish residence permit on the basis of having a job in Finland. Becoming unemployed for a long period means the worker might have to leave the country. To acquire a permanent residence permit, a worker typically has to wait for five years. For workers who have brought their families to Finland, their position is even more vulnerable because sustaining a family in the country requires a certain level of income. Others are afraid of the police. The workload for many restaurant workers is so heavy that attending language classes is impossible, and the owners try to prevent them from going to these classes.
One worker said that his employer changed his work shifts after hearing that the worker intended to attend a Finnish language class during his free time. Despite the miserable conditions they are forced to work under, some cooks said they feel a sense of gratitude toward the owner for bringing them to Finland. One person interviewed by Helsingin Sanomat said that the owners brought in their relatives as workers precisely because they knew they would not talk to the police.
Some workers said the owners have also spread rumours in the community that the police and Victim Support Finland are on their side. The magazine is a professional publication, the advertisers of which are mainly law firms as well as labour and industry interest groups. The owners then presented the magazine ads as proof of cooperation with the authorities, the Nepalis said. The other owner, however, said that the advertisement salesperson called him and he wanted to support the magazine.
Devi, Hemraj, and Aryal also said that their workers are able to move freely and study Finnish. They denied any kind of attempt to insulate their employees from assimilating in the Finnish society. Over the last seven years, Nepali restaurant workers have come to Finland, the vast majority of them cooks, most of whom are from Gulmi district.
With their entire family settled permanently in Finland, the workers described the possibility of quitting their onerous jobs as cooks and live on government-funded social security. One Nepali worker said that he tolerates the exploitation so that his family can have an education and a good life in Finland one day.
Suman worked in Nepal as a cook and an accountant. He said he was lured to Finland with the promise of a better life by the brother of the restaurant owner convicted for human trafficking. The owner had promised Suman that if he worked for a year from morning to night with no compensation, he would eventually get a shorter work week and a salary. Suman was cheated and his story is hardly uncommon. Everything begins with first bringing the worker to Finland. Once a cook has been recruited, they are interviewed at the Finnish embassy in Kathmandu for the residence permit.
One of the points states that the worker must deny having to pay for the job if the embassy officials asked them. But some close relatives notwithstanding, every Nepali who wants to come to Finland as a restaurant worker has to pay the owners, according to cooks who spoke to the Sanomat. He said he paid the restaurant owner over 15, euros.
Sometimes the money is agreed on the basis of credit.
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In these cases, the worker must work for no pay until the debt has been settled. He agreed to the arrangement because he could not afford to pay the over 10, euros demanded by the owner, he said. Documents seen by the Sanomat shows that a cook who came to Finland paid a restaurant owner thousands of euros in Nepal. In one message, a cook asks the owner of a restaurant in Vantaa, called Sagarmatha, whether a sum equal to around 10, euros is sufficient. The police department of Eastern Uusimaa is investigating possible exploitation in the case.
The owner has denied any wrongdoing and said she has not demanded any money. Nepalis told the Sanomat that the working conditions for the cooks and servers are worse in the first years. Another employee said that he worked for hours a month with no days off for two years.
Devi Sharma denied the allegation and said the work shift is around eight hours a day and the salary is in line with the collective bargaining agreement. Contracts for Nepali workers regularly state a salary of around 1, euros before taxes. But one Nepali cook said that he had to transfer part of his wage back to the employer.
Even for the workers who received their salaries based on the contract, the hourly wages can be very small because the workload can be up to hours a month, according to some Nepali workers. This, they said, is the most common form of exploitation. For example, a cook working hours a month should earn 3, euros a month, based on the collective bargaining agreement.
Many Nepalis interviewed by Sanomat had worked longer hours and earned at most 1, euros a month. Sundays, overtime and other extra compensation are usually not paid according to regulations, or even paid at all. According to the cook, his workload extended to over hours a month, but he was paid less than 1, euros. According to the calculation, as mandated by the law, the cook should have been paid 5, euros.
Finnish police found cash hidden in various places when they raided the home of a Nepali owner. Many Nepalis said they have witnessed with their own eyes how a large chunk of the money from Finland flows back to Nepal.
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The woman, who has been living at a secret address because her case is still under investigation, said Devi kept stacks of cash bound by a rubber band in a metal box. Once a month, the money was taken out, spread on a bedsheet and counted. Every month, she helped Devi count the profits collected from the restaurants, she says. She estimated that the number of euro bills could amount to well over 10, euros a month. Devi denies that he was handling cash in the manner the worker had described.
Many Nepali workers said that during lunchtime, only the owners and their inner circle are allowed to work the cash register. Cash and lunch vouchers are not registered, or the register is later corrected so that previous sales are struck out.
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One Nepali cook said that he saw bags of cash being carried from a restaurant in Southern Finland to the owner. According to him, the money can amount to over 1, euros on a good day and a few hundred euros on a bad one. Although, after the human trafficking case in Kuopio, the practice has changed, at least in some restaurants. According to the police investigation, 4, euros were discovered between the bed and the mattress, while 5, euros were found in a leather bag, 7, euros in a fabric bag and 2, euros in a bag draped in images of flowers.
At the bottom of a cardboard box, police discovered 30, euros. A large share of the cash that the owners collect is sent back to Nepal, according to workers. Every time someone goes back, the workers said the owners send a stack of cash with them.