Article - 14.10.2019 klo 09.00
Collective bargaining

According to PAM’s Jaana Ylitalo, times have changed since the extra hours of the competitiveness pact – “Working for free won’t make Finland more competitive”

According to PAM’s Collective Bargaining Director Jaana Ylitalo this collective bargaining round is the right time to put an end to unpaid work. Photo: Eeva Anundi

According to PAM’s Collective Bargaining Director Jaana Ylitalo this collective bargaining round is the right time to put an end to unpaid work. Photo: Eeva Anundi

The longer working hours brought in by the competitiveness pact are a source of contention as the collective bargaining round gets going. According to PAM’s Collective Bargaining Director Jaana Ylitalo, times have moved on from the unpaid working hours of the competitiveness pact.

Since 2017, working time has been extended by around three days a year, and this includes employment contracts in the private service sector. PAM’s Collective Bargaining Director Jaana Ylitalo says that this collective bargaining round is the right time to put an end to unpaid work. The bargaining round began in the first of PAM’s sectors at the end of last week.

  • The competitiveness pact was an attempt by the previous government to improve Finland’s competitiveness. Labour market organisations reluctantly approved the pact in 2016, when the government threatened to bring in coercive legislation and even bigger impairments. The majority of employees in Finland are covered by the pact.
  • Competitiveness pact hours mean an unpaid working time extension of 24 hours a year. The competitiveness pact also involved transferring payroll taxes from employers to employees. In the public sector, holiday pay was cut.

Since 2017, working time has been extended by around three days a year, and this includes employment contracts in the private service sector. PAM’s Collective Bargaining Director Jaana Ylitalo says that this collective bargaining round is the right time to put an end to unpaid work. The bargaining round began in the first of PAM’s sectors at the end of last week.

“Times have changed since the competitiveness pact. Working for free won’t make Finland more competitive”, Ylitalo says.

In PAM’s sectors, competitiveness pact hours have been applied differently in different sectors. According to Ylitalo, this doesn’t prevent free work being abolished.

“Anything that has been agreed can be undone. One option that has been put forward is to turn the pact hours into paid time. We know exactly what the monetary value of the pact hours is. In full-time work, the annual cost impact of 24 hours is 1.30–1.4 per cent”, Ylitalo says.

Regular daily work is less common in PAM sectors. The competitiveness pact hours have been brought in by extending working time per week or per period, by reducing days off or both. Not by stretching daily working time by a few minutes.

In the retail sector and in the hotel, restaurant and leisure industry part of the extra working hours were tied to a new annual system for days off. For example, for cleaners, building managers and ski resort workers, who have already started collective bargaining, competitiveness pact hours have been agreed locally.

Have there been problems with applying competitiveness pact hours at workplaces?
In the cleaning sector there has been a tendency to dictate terms. A union official says that pact hours have been deducted from holiday pay without any agreement, even though in that sector pact hours are supposed to be negotiated locally. PAM’s collective bargaining specialist Jarkko Viitanen doesn’t see the point in lengthening working time in the facility services sector because it rarely increases the amount of work available.

“If a cleaning employer has, say, a 25-hour weekly contract with a firm, then where is the employer going to perform that free cleaning work?” Viitanen asks.

Most of the written questions on the competitiveness pact received by the union’s regional office in the capital city region have been about the retail sector.

In September SAK’s Executive Board advised that new collective agreements made by member unions should do away with the competitiveness pact hours. So others should have the same goal as the Industrial Union, which is spearheading the negotiations. PAM is a member union of SAK.

“We are defending this line”, Ylitalo says. She glances out of the window for a moment. The union’s Executive Committee has not yet fixed its objectives for the collective bargaining round. The agreements in PAM’s major sectors only expire in the spring.

“But the clear message from the field has been that we need to do away with the competitiveness pact hours”, Ylitalo says.

SAK’s shop steward panel says that people in workplaces in Finland do not believe that the competitiveness pact has improved our competitiveness. Also, 84 per cent of shop stewards think that the competitiveness pact hours have not created new jobs. Etla, the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy, suggests otherwise in its research. Extended working hours are responsible for around 40 per cent of the improvement in employment, the report states.

“What you can say is that employers have benefited from the competitiveness pact hours”, Ylitalo estimates.

The Industrial Union terminated all the agreements it could relating to competitiveness pact extensions last year. Of the PAM sectors, pharmacy employees terminated their additional protocol on competitiveness pact hours in September. This is the only PAM sector where the agreement can be terminated.

Ylitalo says that competitiveness pact hours will be up for negotiation throughout the country as collective agreements expire.
“Everyone will have a battle on their hands with the pact. The list of matters to be negotiated is long”, Ylitalo says.

How competitiveness pact hours were implemented in PAM sectors

  • A new annual system for days off was brought in for retail employees, which reduced the number of days off. An annual day off is earned after 220 working hours. By local agreement, it was possible to keep the former midweek public holiday system, which included an extension of weekly working time from 37.5 hours to 38 hours. Currently employers can choose between one of the two systems.
  • In hospitality services, full-time working hours increased from 111 hours to 112.5 hours in three weeks. Also, as part of the competitiveness pact hours were tied to a new annual system for days off. An annual day off is earned after 220 working hours.
  • For security guards, midweek public holidays and working time were made equivalent to 6.75 hours for accrued days off. For part-timers, competitiveness pact hours came in the form of unpaid training or events.
  • For cleaners, building managers, pharmacy technical staff and ski resort workers, competitiveness pact hours became subject to local agreement.

 

 

 

 

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