Helsinki (03.05.2017 - Heikki Jokinen) Retail managers held a 12 hours warning strike right after May Day. The walkout is in support of their right to a collective agreement.

The Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff YTN wants to negotiate a collective agreement for retail managers. The Employers' Finnish Commerce Federation absolutely refuse to have any kind of collective agreement or any other union level agreement with them.

YTN is representing managers and  senior salaried employees in the retail sector. YTN is a collective bargaining organisation for the private sector inside the Akava trade union federation. Akava members work in professional, teaching and managerial positions.

According to YTN, their proposal for a collective agreement would guarantee that the voice of employees would be heard at company level. It would include rules on how to accommodate flexibility concerning working hours. The proposal would also guarantee the right to equal overtime payments and holiday bonuses.

All attempts to begin negotiations have been fruitless so far. Not even the National Conciliator could help find a solution.

"There has never been such a situation that one has to start a strike to be able to begin negotiations", says YTN President Heikki Kauppi for the Talouselämä magazine.

YTN called a series of warning strikes. The first one took place on 2 May and there will be others. The strikes are of short duration and focus on a few companies only.

"As agreements and negotiation were, for reasons of principle, impossible for the employers, we were left no other option than to use pressure to start negotiations", says Ville-Veikko Rantamaula, who is in charge of the retail sector in the YTN.

Employers say unconditional no

"Agreements must be made as far as possible inside companies and made individually or at company level", says Anna Lavikkala, Labour Market Director of the Finnish Commerce Federation.

"Blind clinging onto collective agreement as the sole method of development only adds to the power of unions", Lavikkala adds.

In other words: employers are especially afraid that with collective agreements the employees could elect shop stewards with some guaranteed rights.

The retail employers' unconditional no to any kind of collective agreements for managerial staff is in line with the recent decision made by the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK. It unilaterally terminated all 22 confederation level national agreements it had with the trade union confederations.

This has left some 30 000 managerial employees without any agreements on issues like collective representation.

The Service Union United PAM, which organises other retail employees, is not a part of the dispute. It has many collective agreements with the Finnish Commerce Federation.

However, PAM supports the goal of collective agreement. "It is important that all employees should be entitled to the security provided by a collective agreement, also the managerial staff", the Union says.

Read more:
Employers Confederation terminates all national level labour market agreements (02.03.2017)