Relaxed store opening hours expose the downside of local bargaining
S Group employees have received extra working hours but at the expense of their counterparts in other store chains, says Niina Koivuniemi, Organisation Director at Service Union United PAM.
Last week, PAM employees and active members toured commercial sector workplaces all over the country. Their specific aim was to find out about the effects of deregulated store opening hours on the working hours of part-time employees, recruitment of new employees and the mood among employees in general. Based on these rounds of visits, the highest pressure to extend opening hours has focused on stores within the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
According to Koivuniemi, a specific problem is the rest period between shifts, which is too short. She says that, for instance, S Group employees are also forced to consent to a 7-hour rest period when signing an employment contract.
‘However, it takes some time to travel between home and work and if your shift ends at 11 pm and the next one starts at six in the morning, your remaining rest period becomes minimal.’
According to Koivuniemi, this is definitely not what local bargaining should be about.
‘People are constantly talking about how important local bargaining is and how it should be increased. Here we have an example of what we definitely don’t want. This is not genuine local bargaining, the employee and the employer are not in an equal position at all.’
At S Group stores, employees have mostly been satisfied with receiving extra working hours. According to Koivuniemi, however, this has happened at the expense of employees in other store chains. Small stores have lost their competitive advantage as a result of the deregulation of opening hours, which has reduced sales at some shops.
‘It became clear during our rounds that small businesses have felt the pressure to reduce opening hours and have not been able to offer as many working hours as before. Even larger stores haven’t necessarily had any extra hours to offer employees, because so-called “tag-you’re-it” shifts have increased.’
This means that, instead of overlapping shifts, employees do more consecutive shifts and work alone in the evenings. However, no security guards have been added.
‘The lack of surveillance will inevitably lead to increasing wastage. Many employees have also told us that they are afraid because they have to work alone late at night,’ explains Koivuniemi.