News - 21.10.2013 klo 09.10

A hectic week of collective bargaining ahead

The deadline for the national labour market settlement on Friday 25 October at 16.00 is fast approaching, but most of the negotiations at union level are still open. Some negotiations have not even really started.

The deadline for the national labour market settlement on Friday 25 October at 16.00 is fast approaching, but most of the negotiations at union level are still open. Some negotiations have not even really started.

The trade union confederations and the employers’ organisations agreed on 30 August on a national agreement on wages and salaries, the Pact for Employment and Growth. If there are enough unions and branches willing to accept the national agreement, it will become valid in October. The task is not an easy one as there are some 280 collective agreements to negotiate.

The first major agreement was concluded a few days ago for the technology industries. The Metalworkers' Union, the Trade Union Pro and the Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff YTN  - Akava's collective bargaining organisation for the private sector - have all reached an agreement with the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries.

This agreement is important, as technology industries have traditionally taken the lead and acted as a road opener in the collective bargaining process.

The YTN director of collective bargaining, Ismo Kokko, says that the major step ahead in the new agreement is the work time bank, which would make it possible for professional and managerial staff to utilise all their working hours made as a free time, for example.

The Metalworkers' Union unanimously endorsed the agreement that had been reached on technology industries and mining. It covers some 120,000 employees.

Since the Union decided on its goals in negotiations one month earlier, 3,000 members have been either made redundant or faced temporary lay-offs, Chairperson Riku Aalto said. Employment is now the most important issue.

The Trade Union Pro also agreed unanimously on the new collective agreement, which covers some 25,000 employees. Pro has 57 collective agreements.

Forest industries as a troublemaker

The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL has also reached agreement in some branches, like railroad traffic and sport associations. Negotiations on its main agreements are still open.

Service Union United PAM reports that the negotiations in most branches are going on in good spirit. There have been problems, however, on property maintenance sector.

The Finnish Construction Trade Union made it clear, back in September, that it does not accept the national agreement. It is the only main union to remain outside it.

One possible major troublemaker is the Finnish Forest Industries Federation. It came to the negotiations with a long list of things designed to water down the collective agreements. Unions will not accept any watering down, as the pay rises are extremely moderate. The forest industry is determined to hold out for longer working hours.

Petri Vanhala, Chairperson of the Finnish Paper Workers' Union says that they are ready to negotiate on the basis of the national agreement, but the employer seems not to be ready for it. The negotiations are, however, officially ongoing.

Antti Rinne, chairperson of Trade Union Pro has invited the union board to meet on the evening Thursday 24 October. "If there is no agreement in all major sectors then - including the forest industries - I would propose that our collective agreements should not be signed", he said to the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. This would mean the end of the Pact.

On Friday 25 October after 16.00 the trade union and employers' federations will weigh up and consider whether the Pact for Employment and Growth has received enough support to become valid.

Heikki Jokinen

Written by: SYSTEM