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19.02.2024 07:30

Rönni-Sällinen: Will the changes in local agreements contribute to work-related exploitation?

By realizing the wishes of unorganized companies regarding local agreements, the government creates room for social dumping, says Annika Rönni-Sällinen, President of the Service Union United PAM. According to her, the negative effects of the changes will most likely affect the employees who have the worst possibilities to defend their interests in the labor market.

Annika Rönni-Sällinen seisoo kädet puuskassa.
PAMin puheenjohtaja Annika Rönni-Sällinen

On February 15, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment published an action plan against labour exploitation. In the plan, the government promises tougher penalties, more efficient implementation of criminal liability and that the authorities are given sufficient resources to combat labour market criminality.

— The plan’s intentions are right. But already on the same day, the government succeeded in hampering the effectiveness of the plan, because the minimum protection for employees in Finland is strongly associated with generally binding collective agreements. With its proposal to expand local agreements, the government now erodes this minimum protection and creates room for social dumping, says Rönni-Sällinen.

The private service industries that PAM represents are low-wage and labor-intensive industries and have a large proportion of temporary workers. More than 40,000 employees from third countries work in these service industries. 10 percent of employees in the restaurant industry and approximately 50 percent of employees in cleaning companies in the capital region are people with a migrant background.

The risk of social dumping is real, and it is not unusual at all to violate minimum terms and conditions. Of the disputes that PAM handles, 50 percent concern PAM’s members with a migrant background who live and work in the capital region. In approximately 70 percent of these cases, the employer is not organized (i.e. not a member of the employers’ association).

It is therefore more commonplace that in companies where the collective agreement is only generally binding, the minimum provisions of the collective agreement are not followed as well as otherwise, and this affects, in particular, employees with a migrant background.

PAM enters into national collective agreements with employers’ associations. In them, the minimum level of working conditions is determined. Both parties to the agreement monitor compliance. In this way, fair competition between companies is guaranteed when the minimum conditions also apply to unorganized companies through the generally binding nature of the agreements. Part of the collective agreement solution has been the possibility to agree on certain things locally, even weaker conditions.

— In this way, we have aligned the needs of both parties, considered the risks and committed ourselves to making changes if the member companies apply them in a way that is not in line with the jointly decided purpose, explains Rönni-Sällinen.

The government now wants to make it possible for unorganized companies to negotiate weaker terms without a union representative safeguarding the interests of the employees. In addition, company-specific collective agreements will be easier in the future.

—By implementing these wishes of unorganized companies, the government creates new space for undermining working conditions, because the negative effects of the changes hit especially those groups of employees whose opportunities to safeguard their interests are already the weakest.

—It seems that instead of eradicating labour exploitation, the government is focusing on creating working conditions that are worse than the current ones.