Petri Savolainen: Facilitating sackings is needless and harmful

The UJF has responded to the government’s draft bill to amending the 2001 Employment Contracts Act. The purpose of the amendment is to make it easier for small businesses, employing fewer than 20 people, to make dismissals on an individual basis.

The union opposes the draft bill, which it considers needless and harmful.

Here, the UJF head of advocacy, Petri Savolainen, lists the impact the amended legislation could have on media industry employees.

1) Inequality

Smaller workplaces would be subject to unequal regulation when the law takes effect. 36 per cent of all private-sector employees would be covered by the new regulation. The proposed amendment would broadly affect media industry jobs as well. An increasing number of our members work in small enterprises.

2) Ineffectiveness

The government believes that the new law will allow small businesses to hire more people. But is it the easiest way to do this to facilitate staff dismissals? There are no background memoranda to the bill. The law could prevent journalists from applying for companies with fewer than 20 workers because it would be known that their employment protection would be weaker. Employers often argue that in Finland it is difficult to dismiss staff on an individual basis. There is, however, no evidence of a particularly high threshold for dismissals. It is more a question of whether workplaces are able to adequately deal with misconduct.

3) Confusion

Only case law can determine the sort of situation where a small business can make dismissals on an individual basis. It takes years for case law to be formed. So nobody knows what the draft bill would lead to, except to an unequal situation in the workplace. One type of conduct would suffice for dismissals in companies with more than 20 employees and some lesser culpability in companies with fewer than 20. This again would lead to inequality among employees. It’s pretty much down to chance whether a person is in a workplace with more or less than 20 people.

4) Unemployment benefit

Dismissal on an individual basis incurs a waiting period of three months for unemployment benefit. So we would also have two categories of people concerning unemployment benefit. Those who were dismissed from a company of less than 20 people would be more likely to have to face the waiting period.

5) Disputes

The new law would lead to disputes and prolonged processes concerning dismissals. Would small workplaces be able to afford this?  Case law would be established specifically in such cases.