In headlines now / 16.06.2017

Unions demand real rise in pay in Autumn round of collective bargaining

Helsinki (15.6.2017 - Heikki Jokinen) The time of centralised nation level labour market agreements is over in Finland. The next round of collective bargaining will take place at union level. Unions are now preparing to set out their goals for these negotiations. Since 1968 Finland has had a tradition of national trilateral labour market pacts. As of from that time, for the most part, some kind on national agreement has provided the framework for union level negotiations. In March the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK terminated all national agreements with the trade union confederations. It is no longer willing to make any further national level labour market agreements. This autumn Finland is heading towards a union level collective bargaining round. The existing collective agreements start to expire after summer and one of the first major collective agreements to be negotiated is in the paper industry. After some years of zero level pay rise - or even negative development - there is now pressure in the unions to improve the wage and salary earners’ purchasing power. The Finnish economy has shown some signs of recovery. The gross national product increased by 2.7 per cent in the first quarter of this year in comparison with the same time  the previous year. The Labour Institute for Economic Research forecasts that growth will continue as both export and investments are at a higher level than in the recent past. And most economists in Finland predict a growth rate of between 1.5 and 3 per cent in 2017. Unions now prepare their demands This will have an affect on collective bargaining, as pay increases now seem possible after years of stagnation. The unions have not yet outlined any exact demands. But many have already made it clear that pay rises are necessary. In May the Council of Service Union United PAM demanded "that as Finland’s competitiveness improves and the economy gains strength, the upcoming collective bargaining round and wage decisions must roll back the adverse effects that the competitiveness pact imposed on workers." PAM is the biggest union in Finland. Another major union, the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL Council stated in June that public sector employees are no longer prepared to accept that they should be the to be the ones that should have to pay for the problems that afflict the national economy. JHL insists that the public sector too is entitled to expect the same pay rises as those enjoyed in the export branches and industry. In particular JHL demands a real pay rise for those with the lowest incomes. Tehy - The Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland Council met in June and is demanding progress in equal pay during this forthcoming collective bargaining round. The Union will present its demands in more detail before the autumn. Riku Aalto, the President of the Finnish Industrial Union said in an interview with the public broadcaster Yle that the union will now analyse the changes in productivity in their branch and set pay rise demands in line with that. The Council of Industrial Unions TP is a cooperation body of 18 industry trade unions. It is highly critical of the employers' demand to end extending overall pay rises to all. TP stresses that pay rises across the board are justified as this allows everyone to benefit from the rise in productivity. Samu Salo, the president of the Union of Professional Engineers in Finland also made it clear in the Union Council meeting in May that real pay rises are needed. After many years of extremely moderate collective agreement wage and salary earners have done their share to improve the national economy, he said. Now with the recovery of the economy and growing inflation it is time to negotiate an agreement that restores or turns around members’ purchasing power, Salo said. But so far, the employers have been offering zero or almost zero when it it comes to pay rises. Read also: Employers Confederation terminates all national level labour market agreements (02.03.2017) A broad labour market pact is born - and the burden will be heavy for employees (29.02.2016)

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