(Helsinki 22.08.2015 - Heikki Jokinen) Yet another attempt to draft a so called social contract for the labour market has failed. The discussion round now was about to draft a list of issues to be negotiated during the next year.
Back at the end of May Prime Minister Sipilä’s Government Programme set a target to improve Finnish economic competitiveness by reducing unit labour costs by at least five per cent.
To this end a tripartite process was embarked on between the Government, the employer associations and trade union confederations. Now, after several attempts Prime Minister declared that the negotiations have come to a close.
Even though all parties agree that the Finnish economy is far from in good shape and that something must be done in the near future, the measures proposed proved to be too much at variance to work.
Both Prime Minister Sipilä and the Employers’ Associations have been calling for longer working hours without any pay rises. The Employers’ Associations also proposed several other ways to cut pay.
And the Government Programme already promises to fulfil one of the Employers’ Associations long time wishes, to remove legal obstacles for short fixed term employment.
The Trade Union Confederations stressed that the problem of the economy revolves around demand for Finnish products and work. The key to boosting the Finnish economy is by better productivity which can be achieved through moderate pay rises, innovations, investments and better working life.
There is life even after this
The three trade union Confederations, Akava, SAK and STTK presented a list of measures to be negotiated. There is time for these negotiations as most of the some 300 collective agreements are valid until around the end of 2016.
STTK chairperson Antti Palola say that his impression was that the employers were hiding behind the back of the Government. Their willingness for cooperation with the trade union movement has been minimal.
Though this round fell flat, same issues will stay on the table, Palola says. Next autumn will be a major round for collective bargaining. This allows the possibility to advance issues which are important for the trade unions.
Akava chairperson Sture Fjäder express his deep disappointment at the failed process. ”We hoped until the last moment that we could reach a balanced negotiation position and agreement. Reforming working life cannot and must not be only centred round weakening the position of wage and salary earners and increasing their work load.
SAK chairperson Lauri Lyly is keen to point out that labour market organisations have been recently actively involved in several major agreements in order to boost Finnish competitiveness and strengthen the economy.
These very moderate pay rises have been bridging the cost effectiveness difference in comparison with Germany by almost three per cent in a few years, Lyly adds.
"Even though the attempt did not succeed this time, we have to encourage the culture of negotiation in the labour market. Life will go on even after this."