Helsinki (08.02.2018 - Heikki Jokinen) A large number of public sector collective agreements expired at the end of January. Negotiations are now ongoing and some forms of industrial action are already taking place.

JHL, the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors this week introduced a ban on overtime and shift swap in the energy sector, municipalities, rail traffic, private social services and private education and vocational education and training.

Tehy, the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland announced in conjunction with the Finnish Union of Practical Nurses, SuPer, similar action in municipal health care. This covers around 130,000 health care employees.

The overtime bans are possible as the collective agreements stipulating industrial peace have expired. There are some half a million municipal employees in Finland.

JHL has now renegotiated nine of their recently expired collective agreements, 17 agreements are still subject to collective bargaining.

The Negotiation Organisation for Public Sector Professionals JUKO covers many unions from the Akava trade union federation. It is negotiating on several collective agreements in the municipal and state sectors.

Their negotiation process has been equally as slow as with the other unions and even JUKO initiated an overtime and shift swap ban on February 6.

Several unions say they are ready to take other forms of industrial actions if the public sector collective bargaining fails to show any signs of progress soon.

Compensating holiday bonus cut is a key issue

The most difficult issue in all negotiation tables is the same: compensation for the holiday bonus cut. In the trilateral national Competitiveness Pact in 2016 it was agreed that there would be a 30 per cent cut in public sector holiday bonuses until 2019. A similar cut was not implemented in the private sector.

Now trade unions are demanding 300 million euros in compensation for these cuts affecting the municipal sector. The Unions calculate that the holiday bonus cut will cost some 600 million euro to employees.

"We are not demanding the impossible", says Tehy President Millariikka Rytk├Ânen to Yle news. "We have already lost 600 million and we ask 300 million back. We have come to meet employers half way."

The Unions see the improving Finnish economy as reason enough to revise the previous decision on holiday bonus cuts.

Another controversial issue is of course the pay rise question. The public sector unions are asking for at least the same as the general pay rise in the private sector agreements this year, 3.2 per cent with a two year collective agreement.

State sector negotiations are stalled, too. JHL head of bargaining, Kristian Karrasch says that the meeting on February 7 was short and negotiations will continue later.

"Negotiations seems to be marking time due to a couple of key issues", he says.