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04.07.2023 13:38

Government programme undermines workers’ security

The new programme of Petteri Orpo’s government has caused consternation in the trade union movement. If implemented, the programme’s provisions would undermine workers’ security in many ways.

According to Annika Rönni-Sällinen, President of Service Union United PAM, the programme’s provisions on working life make you wonder if the government knows what it is doing.

– In many areas, there are contradictions between the programme’s objectives and the practical means. There’s still time to think. Nothing is set in stone before it is written into law, Rönni-Sällinen adds however.

The President highlights some of the changes planned by the government.

Reduced protection against dismissal

The President describes the reduced protection against dismissal planned by the government as a huge change. Whereas now an employee can be dismissed for a valid and serious reason, in future a valid reason alone would be enough.

– This would mean that in terms of protection against dismissal workers would be in a permanent trial period. In practice, an employee disputing their dismissal would have to demonstrate that the reason for dismissal was not valid, for example discrimination, Rönni-Sällinen reflects.

Over time, court judgments, or case law, would show what a valid reason is.

Quicker access to lay-offs

The government’s planned shorter notification period for lay-offs would also undermine employment security. The notification period is currently 14 days, in future it would only be 7 days.

– In the exceptional circumstances during Covid the labour market organisations agreed to temporarily shorten the notification period. In return, the waiting period was removed and laid-off employees accessed unemployment security more quickly. Now there is no such generosity, on the contrary the number of waiting days is going up, Rönni-Sällinen points out.

Re-employment obligation removed from small firms

Under the programme, the re-employment obligation in the Employment Contracts Act would be removed from companies and organisations employing fewer than 50 persons. An existing employee would no longer have to be re-employed for the same or a similar job even if the company’s financial position improves rapidly after the lay-off.

– Removing this obligation would provide a way to get round the grounds for dismissal also in cases of financial and production-relation termination.

Fixed term-contracts would not require a reason

Currently there has to be a reason for a fixed-term employment contract. If the government gets its way, no reason would have to be given in future. Under the programme it would not be possible to have a series of fixed-term contracts, however.

– How would series of contracts be prevented in practice? Clearly when a fixed-term contract ends an employer could always take on another fixed-term employee, Rönni-Sällinen reflects.

Will victims of work-related abuse be worse-off?

– The previous government improved the position of victims of work-related abuse, now it’s going the other way, Rönni-Sällinen says.

Under the programme, anyone in Finland on a work-related residence permit would have to leave the country if they have become unemployed or have not found a new job within three months.

– This change would make employees more dependent on their employer. The threat of deportation might be such a deterrent that an employee wouldn’t quit their job even if their employer is treating them badly.

Adult education allowance likely to go

PAM’s President cannot understand why the adult education allowance is being withdrawn. Finland’s long-term goal has been life-long learning and acquiring skills also during working careers.

– Education has been a way for people to maintain their eligibility in the labour market. It has allowed people to switch to sectors with labour shortages if jobs in their own sector are scarce. This sort of change wouldn’t promote employment growth in the long term.