JHL (23.12.2015 – Heikki Jokinen) Local authority decision makers are facing a challenging year, JHL strongly affirms in its letter to members of municipal councils.

The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL send a letter to 7 500 members and deputy members of municipal councils four times a year.

The municipal council is the highest decision making body of local governments and is elected by secret ballot for a four year term. The number of councillors vary from 17 to 85 depending on the number of inhabitants.

The main issue in the letter is the recent decision of the Finnish Government to orchestrate a major reform of the social welfare and health care structure.

And this reform means that more than 200,000 mainly municipal employees will get a new employer when the country is divided up into 18 autonomous regions which will then be responsible for social welfare and health care.

In expectation of the new reform some municipalities have over hastily outsourced their services, JHL Chief Executive Officer Päivi Niemi-Laine writes in the letter. This, has in some cases, led to a situation where private services are strongly challenging municipal services.

As a municipal decision maker it is important to realise that with this kind of decision the decision makers must abrogate their power to decide on municipal services, Niemi-Laine says.

”We hope that you as a municipal decision maker consider the decisions carefully and also from the point of view of a successful democracy. Markets should not rule.”

Negotiations rather than unilateral legislation

The JHL letter also confronts and seeks answers to many other relevant questions.

At the municipal level there is concern that Government cuts must be executed in municipalities, which will have to decide on priorrites when it comes to cuts.

JHL also criticises the Government on its plans for limiting freedom of agreement by stipulating the maximum that can be agreed upon in certain areas of collective agreements.

And many legal experts question the legal basis of the planned legislative package. More importantly, a number of respected economists do not believe any positive effects to the  economy can come from Government involvement in collective agreements.

”A functioning labour market is to the benefit of inhabitants of municipalities”, the letter says. ”Services work only if the personnel is trusted and appreciated. The Government law package does not sit well with the concept of good service.”

”A major public sector reform can probably not be executed well if employers, decision makers and wage and salary earners do not trust each other. For this reason a mutual understanding is important.”

JHL hope there will be negotiations in good faith on labour market issues instead of unilaterally forced legislation.