Helsinki (21.02.2019 - Heikki Jokinen) Debate in the Finnish Parliament on the citizens' initiative to stop the so called activation model took a peculiar turn. At the beginning of the debate on the initiative signed by 140,944 citizen not a single MP from the Government parties turned up.
The activation model is legislation that cuts unemployment benefits should an unemployed job-seeker not meet certain criteria like finding a temporarily job, having entrepreneurial income or participating in training. The legislation is widely viewed as unfair, as it is often not possible to meet the criteria in spite of actively trying to do so.
The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK carried out a survey last year and found that more than half of those receiving unemployment benefit from the SAK unions' funds have seen their benefits cut.
In Parliament, 15 minutes into the debate one Government party MP showed up, followed by another 15 minutes later. Anna Kontula, MP of the Left Alliance said that this demonstrates how unpopular and embarrassing all Government parties MPs know the law is.
"Everyone knows that none of the goals of the law have been realised and all the earlier warnings have come to fruition", Kontula said. "They do not have the stomach to come to the house to defend a law that everyone knows has failed."
The debate took some three hours, and only one MP from the Government parties, Juhana Vartiainen (National Coalition Party) actively took part in it.
The citizens’ initiative is a system that enables a minimum of 50,000 Finnish citizens of voting age to submit an initiative to Parliament to enact a piece of legislation. The current one in Parliament is now the second most popular ever.
On February 20 the Parliament rejected the initiative with 77 votes in favour of the initiative and 96 in favour of keeping the activation model as it is now.