Helsinki (15.02.2018 - Heikki Jokinen) Collective agreements for the public sector are beginning to take shape. The solution to breaking the deadlock in negotiations was to come up with a novel one-off payment for employees to compensate for the lost holiday bonus.

The main issue that stalled all municipal and state sector negotiations was the unions demand for compensation for the 30 per cent holiday bonus cut, which was put in place for three years at the insistence of the Finnish Government.

The new one-off, lump sum payment was introduced first in the main municipal agreement, covering some 421,000 employees. In January 2019 the municipal employees will receive  a payment of 9.2 per cent of their monthly salary.

On average this will amount to 260 euro per person.

As it was not possible for employers to call it compensation for holiday bonus cuts, it is to be called a local one-time payment based on efficiency instead. Everyone, however, is entitled to this along the same lines.

The unions calculate that full compensation would have been 600 million euro and they demanded half of this, 300 million euro. The compensation now agreed upon comes to 135 million euro in total.

After the municipal agreement was negotiated, other public sector agreements are now moving forward by following the pattern outlined in the municipal agreement. The question concerning holiday bonus compensation is central to these negotiations.

Some negotiation results have already been made public and which are still going through the decision making process, like those concerning state civil servants and employees.

Several smaller agreements are, however, still completely open.

Bigger pay rises for the smallest salaries

In general the pay rises follow the other collective agreements made recently in the private sector. The public sector agreements negotiated so far will be for a period of 26 months with a pay rise of 3.45 per cent.

There are also some minor improvements in the text part of the collective agreements like longer paid paternity leave and broader rights to take care of a sick child on full pay.

Tehy, the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland has already accepted the municipal sector agreement in its Union Council.

JHL, the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors will have their Council meeting on 15 February.

Both JHL and Tehy welcome the fact that the main collective agreements are now finally being drafted following an intensely difficult stand-off.

JHL President Päivi Niemi-Laine views it as important that the pay rise is not only defined in per cents but also includes a minimum pay rise in euro terms.

"For very many of our Union members the pay rise in euro terms is a more profitable form of pay rise than a rise solely in terms of percentage points", Niemi-Laine says.

This holds true among sectors with lower incomes. A pay rise in euro terms will raise the lowest salaries proportionally more than higher ones.

To get its own collective agreement for educated health care staff was an important demand of Tehy in the negotiations. Now they are a part of the major municipal agreement.

Tehy President Millariikka Rytkönen say that this goal has been moved forward, even though it has not yet been reached. As part of the new pact the parties agreed to establish a working group to negotiate on issues in the health and social sector. It has, however, also other issues on the agenda.

"The agreement cannot be made in one night, it must be built on and written down", Rytkönen says.

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