Helsinki (08.05.2020 - Heikki Jokinen) The latest attempt to reach a deal in the local government collective agreement failed. Just before 1 May, two unions turned down the proposal put forward by the National Conciliator, whereas other unions involved would have accepted it.

Collective bargaining concerning local government began back in January and the existing agreements expired at the end of March. The agreement covers 420,000 local government employees.

The unions that rejected the proposal were Tehy - The Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland and Super - the Finnish Union of Practical Nurses.

Millariikka Rytkönen, President of Tehy finds many problems with the proposal. The pay rise would have been under the general level agreed with the other unions thus far, she says.

The unpaid annual 24 extra hours was set to be extended until 4 October, even though this has already been dropped in many sectors. By way of compensation to the employer the rules concerning period-based work would have been amended from 1 May.

Rytkönen says that, in practise, only nurses do period-based work. The amendments would have affected them in a real way, by making one work period longer from three to four weeks and allowing for 11 hours night shifts instead of 10 hours as is the norm now.

Tehy and Super are also very critical of the proposal in respect of the possibility to cut the pay of those nurses who see themselves transferred to other jobs during the corona crisis. At present this kind of transfer is possible for up to eight weeks, but under the new proposed deal this was set to be increased to 7.5 months, the unions say.

The proposal also included a special coronavirus bonus for those working in specialised health care. In respect of this the employer would be in a position to decide on how this should be distributed - which drew further criticism from Tehy and Super.

A delay until autumn is possible

Several unions are involved in the local government collective agreement negotiations. Some unions said yes to the proposal. One of these is JHL - The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors.

Kristian Karrasch, JHL Head of Bargaining writes in his blog that the pay rise was indeed consistent with the general line. It provides quite uniformly an 0.132 per cent pay rise for every month the agreement is valid. And this is without the coronavirus bonus, he says.

Karrasch also points out that in every other collective agreement in this bargaining round dropping the 24 unpaid annual working hours, the employers have been compensated in one way or another. The now rejected proposal was thus no exception.

JUKO - the Negotiation Organisation for Public Sector Professionals said also yes to this now rejected proposal. It represents several unions belonging to the Akava confederation like teachers and medical doctors.

This proposal was, for the most part, in line with other signed collective agreements to date, as JUKO sees it. A better deal would have only been possible through industrial disputes, but due to the corona crises this is simply not an option now.

Right now it is difficult to predict when the local government collective agreement will be ready. Tehy President Rytkönen says that they will not accept a bad deal and that bargaining can be moved to a later date.

Kristian Karrasch of JHL warns that should the negotiations carry over into the autumn or even longer, it will become more and more difficult to reach a good deal. The municipal economy is getting worse all the time due to the corona crises, he says.

Sooner or later the larger local government agreement will be split it seems, but it is not easy to predict when and how. As we saw now, some parts of the deal that are possible for some professions might prove very difficult for other professions.

Tehy and Super have been demanding their own agreement for many years. Teachers and medical doctors do have this, but they are linked to the main agreement, too.


Read more:

Local government sector collective bargaining still fully open (08.04.2020)