News - 03.12.2015 klo 08.25

Employers pull out of negotiations for national labour market pact

The negotiations to draft a comprehensive labour market pact ended in the early hours of the morning of 2 November. Now the country is heading towards implementation of the severe cuts in incomes and labour rights planned by the right-wing Government.

The employers association EK pulled out, claiming the reason behind their decision was that one of the unions had announced they would not join the national pact.

The Government had said it would consider cancelling its controversial labour market legislation should the social partners reach an agreement that satisfies the Government. Now it will go on with it's original plans.

The trade union confederations are extremely disappointed about the failure of the negotiations.

“A good attempt failed even before a possible joint proposal due to all kinds of unconditional demands. There should have been more flexibility from all sides”, says Antti Palola, Chairperson of the Finnish Confederation of Professionals STTK.

STTK is in favour of an agreement, Palola says. ”With such a laissez-faire attitude towards the labour market Finland can not be successful.” Now we are heading towards very broken and heavy union level negotiations under the shadow of stringent Government legislation, he adds.

Akava, the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland is also disappointed.

Akava understands very well the poor state of the Finnish economy just now and the need for reforms, says Akava Chairperson Sture Fjäder.

”So it is aggrieved that those who were ready to negotiate and draft a national pact are the ones who have to pay the price of the Government austerity legislation”, Fjäder says.

”The employers didn't even have a willingness to draft a labour market agreement to improve Finland's economy and employment in the first place”, says Lauri Lyly, Chairperson of  SAK, the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions.

”Instead the employers' organisation EK entered into these negotiations by passively following the Government line.”

Lyly also views EK’s reason for ending negotiations as strange. The agreement could have encompassed 97 per cent of Finnish labour even without the one union that was not willingly to join.

Previous national labour market pacts have covered slightly more than 90 per cent. This has been enough for employers before.

Lyly also stresses that SAK made a constructive proposal to EK. It included freezing pay in 2017, linking pay rises to increases in the export industry, cutting employers' social security costs and defining a flexible holiday bonus based on the level of unemployment.

”EK wanted cuts in the terms of employment by the Government austerity legislation instead, which will drive those on meagre incomes to the verge of survival.”

Written by: Heikki Jokinen