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27.10.2022 15:28

Success of the commerce sector should also be felt in employees’ wage packets

Kesko posted good results in its quarterly report, but this was no surprise for Kesko employees. The result for the third quarter of this year was the company’s best-ever quarterly result. Quarterly earnings have improved no less than 14 times compared to the reference period.

Service Union United PAM President Annika Rönni-Sällinen points out that service sector workers play a key role in generating good profits. Kesko’s operating profit for July-September was 243 million euros, compared to 236 million the previous year. Operating profit rose to 3 billion euros.  Sales of clothing and footwear have also increased after the Covid years.

“These numbers indicate that there is plenty of scope to pay wages”, Rönni-Sällinen states.  The result is making employees hopeful when it comes to the upcoming wage negotiations. 

“The company is doing well and employees are aware of this. Expectations are high for the wage negotiations and we hope that these results can safeguard workers’ purchasing power”, says Mikko Ruokonen, head shop steward at Kesko PT logistics. 

Ruokonen says that many people are worried about rising prices.

The economic survey indicates that up to 84 per cent of service sector workers are worried about their personal finances.

“How to pay electricity and grocery bills – this is the main concern when I talk to my fellow workers. Many of them are asking about the wage negotiations, they’re very interested to know what’s happening.”

Ruokonen started in logistics at Kesko’s warehouse 23 years ago and has seen how the sector has changed. The working pace has increased with centralisation and automation.

“It’s all very hectic, there are no quiet periods in these core activities, we’re always rushing.”

Shortage of skilled workers

Ruokonen says that worker turnover in the warehouse is high and that there’s a shortage of skilled workers in the sector. This is also confirmed by PAM’s economist Olli Toivanen, who says there’s a particular shortage of experienced workers and supervisors in the commerce sector.

“It’s also increasingly difficult to fill part-time and fixed-term positions, which can also include difficult working hours. Commerce sector roles requiring various special skills have also featured in the statistics in recent months. For example, in the wholesale sector it’s taking longer to fill vacancies."

Mikko Ruokonen calls for rapid action to make the sector more attractive.

“Pay and how staff are looked after will affect whether people want to come and work here in future or not.”

Anne Kuronen, K-Citymarket head shop steward, also feels the pressure, with work constantly having to be done by fewer sales staff.

“If staffing levels are the bare minimum, then of course the company is making higher profits.”

Extended store opening hours have made working hours more irregular, and shifts can be late in the evening or at any time of day.

“Low hourly wages don’t attract people, even if there are supplements for evenings and weekends – it’s small compensation for sales assistants being away from their families.”

According to Kuronen it’s not enough just to be thanked for doing a good job – workers  are looking for progress and a substantial pay rise.

Service sector workers in play a key role in generating good profits.

Employers should also show responsibility for the wellbeing of their employees in times of high inflation.

The pay problem is made worse by the large numbers of part-timers in the commerce sector. Of 39,000 part-time sales assistants, around half are working part-time against their will.  

PAM President Annika Rönni-Sällinen has a clear position on the upcoming wage negotiations. The way commerce workers have taken the strain and been flexible in recent years has been taken to the extreme, partly because of Covid, so these big profits should also be reflected in workers’ pay packets.

It’s time to increase workers’ wages to a level that guarantees their purchasing power and eases the labour shortage in the commerce sector.