Helsinki (25.01.2018 - Heikki Jokinen) The new legislation to cut unemployment security has been met with broad and strenuous opposition from trade unions. In February the unions will organise a major demonstration against the law in Helsinki.

From the beginning of the year 2018 unemployed people must report their progress in job-seeking to the unemployment fund or the Social Insurance Institution (Kela) quarterly. These can then consider whether they have been active enough in finding employment or not.

Should they decide someone has not done enough to seek out employment, the benefit will be cut by 4.65 percent for the next three months. The cut is approximately one day's benefit per month.

There will be no cut if an unemployed job-seeker has, during any three month period of unemployment, managed to find employment for at least 18 hours, earn a minimum of 241 euro as an entrepreneur or participate for five days in certain services offered by the employment offices.

These services include various type of training and similar measures to promote employment prospects.

The Government has continually turned a deaf ear to all criticism. It calls the new legislation the active model and says that it encourages the unemployed to be more ‘active’ in seeking work.  

Punishing and humiliating

Trade unions have a completely different understanding of what is happening here and what is at stake. Jarkko Eloranta, President of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK says the new legislation is designed to humiliate unemployed people.

He cannot fathom why the Government wants to add to the bureaucracy jobseekers already face.

Trade unions point out that the new model is very unfair. In many parts of the country it is not easy to find a temporary job or work as an entrepreneur. Possibilities for gig jobs depend a lot on the profession, too.

The services offered by the state employment offices also vary. Even though these offices will find themselves burdened by much more work thanks to the new legislation, their resources are not growing accordingly.

The Government says their model is influenced by Danish legislation. There are some similarities, but also major differences. SAK calculated last year that in Denmark one employment office staff member has the responsibility to help 12 job-seekers, in Finland her or his colleague has 166 job-seekers to serve.

All three Finnish trade union confederations have criticised the new legislation. Antti Palola, President of the Finnish Confederation of Professionals STTK says that the model is flawed and STTK will not accept it.

He stresses that the model treats unemployed people in various parts of the country and in various family situations very unfairly. The services to the unemployed should be improved, and this has not happened, he adds.

Sture Fjäder, President of Akava, the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland also demands changes to the legislation. He says that without proper services for the unemployed the active model will become a trap and problem of legal protection.

Fjäder says that the legislation should be amended so that there will be no cut if an unemployed person seeks a job of his own accord.

Breaking the Competitiveness Pact of 2016

In reality the new model is simply another cut in unemployment security, the unions stress. It is against the trilateral national Competitiveness Pact from 2016.

"By drafting the active model the Government breached the pact", SAK President Jarkko Eloranta says. "On top of that the Government is quietly preparing a new amendment that would focus separately on the job seeking an unemployed is doing himself."

This would create a threat of losing a bigger share of unemployment benefit and increase the bureaucratic burden, he adds.

In January SAK presented its own model to encourage the unemployed on seeking a job. It is based on support and encouragement, not penalisation, which is central to the Government model.

SAK and several unions are organising a major demonstration against the law in Helsinki on February 2.