Helsinki (23.10.2012 – Juhani Artto) In Finland, every now and then the proposal to pay lower starting rates for young people as they enter working life rears its ugly head. Indeed, this is a favourite ploy of the entrepreneur associations. The union confederations SAK, STTK and Akava and the trade union solidarity centre SASK are unanimous in their condemnation of this call to lower young people’s pay saying that it is quite unnecessary and unfair in their joint press release.

They reiterate that pay invariably depends on how much work experience the employee has. In addition, there are several options open to employers when it comes to hiring apprentices, who are paid significantly less than others. Their pay tends to be 10 or 20 per cent below the minimum wages and salaries set out in the collective agreements.

“In Finland, we do not want to have the EUR 1000 generation, familiar across much of Southern Europe. Those young people in the South of Europe cannot afford to live independently and are dependent, often till they are 30 years of age, on the support offered by their parents”, says Ulla Hyvönen, STTK’s expert in student and youth policy. “And lower pay does not even boost youth employment”, she adds.

“A good way to help young people would be to give temporary and part-time employees and agency labour the same working conditions enjoyed by others. This would mean improvements in respect of holiday entitlements, company-based health care, sick pay and income-related unemployment benefits”, stresses Tatu Tuomela, SAK’s youth secretary.

Elina Havu, Akava’s student ombudsman, is very concerned about the quality of practical training. “Employers often use apprentices to alleviate labour shortages and to replace the input of more experienced employees”, she notes critically. “This kind of behaviour is an abuse of young people’s aptitude and only serves to dampen enthusiasm for work.”

Aleksi Vienonen, SASK’s head of communication, reminds us of the significance and vital importance for young people to be organized. “In countries where the trade union movement is weak, it is common to have problems with regard to labour legislation and in how employees’ rights are respected at work places.”