It has become evident that some of the bus drivers working for Helsingin Bussiliikenne Oy, the large city-owned bus operator, have been picked on for their faith or on account of their ethnic background.
Kari Honkanen, the industrial safety officer of the company, admits that among the salaried employees of the company there are "some people who dislike foreigners".
"There is a certain amount of friction, overt or concealed racism, between drivers from different countries and between some other groups", he says.
At present, Helsingin Bussiliikenne employs nearly 1,200 bus drivers, while approximately 30 to 40 per cent of them are immigrants.
Last December, an abusive handwritten message was found in the workers' rest room, saying: "Take your false religion away from Finland, you are all ridiculous, childish fools, and your stupid Allah does not belong here". The note also contained abusive drawings of the Prophet Muhammad.
The message has been forwarded to the management of the company, while the writer of the note has not been identified.
The quiet rooms that were opened last autumn for the staff at the Ruskeasuo and Rautatientori terminal points are mostly used by Muslim employees when they perform their noon prayers.
An anonymous Finnish driver of the company says that racist insults and bullying have been noticed within the company "every now and then". The driver started working for the company in 2003.
He noted further that the targets for this sort of behaviour have been chosen on grounds of their "skin colour and Islamic faith".
The driver also said that in January he had seen a Finnish driver walking into an immigrant driver on purpose.
"Some people are waging a guerrilla war of their own", the driver concluded.
Industrial safety officer Honkanen and personnel manager Lilja Kinnunen both claim that the abusive message found in the prayer room was a one-off incident.
"In the event that any other similar messages appear, they will be handed to the police for further investigations", notes Kinnunen.
The employer would punish the person found guilty of such insult with a written warning which could be followed by a dismissal.
In Kinnunen's view, there is no need for any attitude training for drivers.
"There is no disturbance of industrial peace in our company, and the problem has to be kept in proportion. Our principle is that people of various nationalities are not accentuated or discriminated against. All our employees are equal", Kinnunen reports.
Honkanen notes further that the management of the bus company have intervened promptly in all incidents that have been disclosed.
Hannu Toikkanen, the chief shop steward at Helsingin Bussiliikenne, says that he has received "very little" feedback about discrimination or racist bullying.
"However, I am by no means suggesting that such incidents have never occurred. I just do not know of any examples personally. In previous years such behaviour occurred, but now people have become used to immigrants in the workplace", argued Toikkanen.
Source: HSI (English)