Helsinki (25.01.2019 - Heikki Jokinen) Five main Finnish labour market organisations are touring the country together to launch a broad debate on working life issues in advance of the parliamentary elections on April 14. All three trade union confederations will take part, as well as two major employers associations.

The Ääni työlle (which has a double meaning - vote for work or voice for work) tour will visit 11 main Finnish cities prior to the elections. In each city there will be an open event with a theme focusing on relevant issues around the future of work in Finland.

All candidates standing for Parliament have been invited to participate.

Every event has a different focus. The tour opened in Helsinki on January 22 under the theme of immigration. Other themes include topics like education, the European Union, family leaves, artificial intelligence, unemployment and urbanisation.

In connection with the Helsinki event all five labour market organisations issued a statement saying that labour migration should be one of the main issues of the next Government. They demand a broad programme on immigrant labour.

Finland needs competent and international labour, innovative growth oriented entrepreneurs and highly skilled people, the organisations say.

The organisations see labour migration as complementing the Finnish labour market. We need both short and long term information on which jobs and in which areas labour is needed in the future, they say.

The statement is critical of delays in processing work permits. Long waiting times creates uncertainty and insecurity with regard to commencement of work which makes it difficult to engage in the job. The maximum time for a decision on and issue of a residence permit should be one month, the organisations claim.

However, flexibility in issuing work permits should not mean any weakening of the terms of employment. Control over terms of employment must be effective both before and during employment and the rights of foreign labour must be guaranteed.

The associations also mentioned a number of concrete demands like clearer rules specifying when education qualifications from outside the EU can and cannot be accepted, actively marketing Finland as a place to work and adding English as a contact language in services and areas with many foreign workers or with a lot of international connections.

The organisers of the Ääni työlle tour are the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK, the Finnish Confederation of Professionals STTK, the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland and the employer associations the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK and the Local Government Employers KT.