JHL (15.02.2015 - Heikki Jokinen) The steep rise of the electricity distribution rates is a harsh reminder when services are brought into market, writes Jarkko Eloranta, chairperson of the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL.

Electricity firm Caruna announced recently on major rise in their electricity distribution prices. As the company is having a natural monopoly in electricity distribution, their customers are left with no other option than to pay.

The state owned energy company Fortum sold their electricity networks to Caruna in 2013. Caruna is mainly owned by foreign investors. Now Caruna takes the sales price back with interest rates, too, Eloranta writes in his blog.

Helsinki (12.02.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) The process of intensified cooperation between the industrial trade unions has led to a deliberation on amalgamation.

The Woodworkers’ Union (46,000 members), Paper Workers' Union (47,000), Metal Workers' Union (144,000) and Industrial Union TEAM (57,000) have been engaged in talks since late 2014 exploring various options aimed at closer cooperation.

No concrete decisions have been taken yet but in March the unions are preparing to sign a letter of intent on a way forward towards possible amalgamation. The list of open questions remains long but now the work to find common solutions can begin in earnest.

If the process moves forward, the new union could emerge at the beginning of 2018. With its 294,000 member it would become the largest union in Finland. Now the four unions have a total of 264 employees.

JHL (29.01.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) JHL managed to attract 12,837 new members in 2015 bringing its membership to 225,000.

However, the total number of members is now somewhat lower than a year before. Even though there were a lot of new members joining, due to the number of retired members the total membership of JHL sank by a couple of per cent.

JHL is the second largest trade union in Finland, just after the Service Union United PAM.

A clear majority of members are women, 70 per cent. This majority has just become even stronger, as 74 per cent of the new members in 2015 were women.

Helsinki (27.1.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) The Finnish Government is planning to reduce protection against precarious employment. Trade union confederations are afraid this will lead to an even further weakening of the position of women and young people in the labour market.

The working group set up by the Finnish Government presented in its report in January which is now under public consultation.

The working group came up with three main proposals. The first is that a period of fixed-term employment would be allowed under any circumstances i.e. without any specified reason, and for a maximum of three times during a year.

At the moment there has to be a valid reason for employing a person for a fixed-term, such as to fill a vacancy for someone on sick-leave or because the work is of a seasonal character. It is also forbidden to make a chain of fixed-term periods of employment.

JHL (12.01.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) Financing for the reform of the social welfare and health care structure shows every sign of resting on unsound foundations, says JHL Chief Executive Officer Päivi Niemi-Laine.

Though the existing multichannel financing model is not good, Niemi-Laine admits, she has serious doubts concerning the model the Government is planning.

From the beginning of 2019 Finland will be divided into 18 self-governing regions that will have responsibility for social welfare and health care in those regions.

The new reform means that more than 200,000 employees will have a new employer. Today social welfare and health care is administered by 190 joint municipal authorities and local authorities.

Helsinki (11.01.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) The number of redundancies in the private sector has continued to remain at over 10,000 a year according to  the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK.

In 2015 a total of 11,907 employees lost their jobs, according to SAK estimates. In the year 2014 the number was 12,447. The last time the figure was below 10,000 was in the year 2010, says SAK which have been keeping statistics since 2006.

The statistics are based on information made publically available and do not include the municipal sector. This means that the actual figures are even greater still.

Major redundancies took place at Microsoft Mobile, which closed its unit in the city of Salo letting 2,300 people go. Other major redundancies took place at the IT services company Tieto with 435 people left without work.

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.

Helsinki (20.12.2015 - Heikki Jokinen) Lidl is the only national grocery store chain in Finland that refuses to provide information on its subcontractors. The Finnish industry watchdog Finnwatch is campaigning to put pressure on Lidl to provide consumers with information on its supply chain.

The main Finnish grocery trade groups, NGO's, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed a memorandum on August 15 2015 setting out the lines on how to follow the UN principles concerning the grocery trade supply chain.

Lidl joined the discussions initially but then pulled out and did not sign the memorandum.

Finnwatch has been requesting information on Lidl supply chains for years - all in vain. Lidl Finland says this is in line with the international policy of the group. It also pleads competitiveness as a reason for keeping supply chains secret.

Helsinki (17.12.2015 - Heikki Jokinen) Shops and hairdressers can choose their own opening hours as they see fit from February 2016, the Finnish parliament decided in mid December. The Service Union United PAM expects employers to issue new working hours to their existing staff.

Extending shop opening hours has been developing gradually since the 1960's. In 2009 opening hours were extended especially with respect to Sunday. And this was designed to stimulate employment.

However, this failed to happen. The number of working hours per employee has not shown any uptick following this move. Instead, what we are seeing is a marked increase in the number of part time employees in all retail shops and in grocery shops in particular.

Helsinki (07.12.2015 - Heikki Jokinen) Negotiations on a broad labour market pact have been developing like an ancient Greek tragedy. But instead of a catharsis it seems likely that the end result will be chaos.

How did we have come to a situation where the Finnish labour market is heading towards a lack of mutual trust and possible wave of industrial disputes?

Prime Minister Sipilä’s Government announced in September this year that they will introduce new legislation that sets the maximum limits on what can be agreed collectively in certain cases.

They will shorten annual leave, eliminate two bank holidays, make the first day of sick leave unpaid and - as the modified proposal today is - cut the holiday bonus by 30 per cent.

The fact that a Government is prepared to interfere directly in collective bargaining is totally unheard of in Finland and unique internationally, too.