Helsinki (05.01.1998 - Juhani Artto) Those employed for less than one month will earn increased pension rights from 1.1.1998. This is due to a law that took effect at the beginning of the year. Up to the end of last year private employers were obliged to contribute to pension funds only where employment lasted longer than one month.

The new regulation does not, however, apply to employees under 23 years of age, nor to those earning less than FIM 3,650 per year (FIM 1.00 = USD 0.19).

The reform is a result of pressure exerted by the trade unions.

Employers began to favour short period employment during the slump in the Finnish economy in the early 1990s. Some of them deliberately reduced their social contributions by artificially dividing employment into short periods.

Helsinki (19.12.1997 - Juhani Artto) Complex negotiations throughout the autumn concluded in mid-December in a comprehensive incomes policy agreement to last until 15 January 2000.

The agreement covers 1.3 million employees in Finland. The framework agreement reached by leaders of labour market organisations was rejected only by the representatives of 27,000 employees.

Monthly salaries will rise in both years by FIM 142 (1 USD = FIM 5.35), representing an increase of FIM 0.85 per hour or at least 1.6 per cent. The agreement also includes a 0.5 per cent increase for special arrangements and an additional 0.4 per cent increase for low-pay sectors and for those with a predominantly female workforce.

Helsinki (05.12.1997 - Juhani Artto) According to a new study, exhaustion at work in Finland is more common than believed and probably worse than in Sweden and the Netherlands.

Made by the Institute of Occupational Health, the study is based on interviews with 3,300 Finns aged 24-65 years.

The proportion of those feeling seriously exhausted varied from 2.6 per cent in the construction industry to more than ten per cent in jobs at restaurants, hotels, schools and research institutes. Work in agriculture and forestry also rated an above average share of serious or slight exhaustion.

Helsinki (07.11.1997 - Juhani Artto) SAK wants a consultative body to serve in Europe's central bank with representatives from the trade unions and employer organisations. The body would help in the exchange of information and provide a forum for discussions of employment, price stability and social development in the Member States.

SAK has approached the Finnish government asking it to promote the idea in European negotiations taking place in November at the employment summit conference in Luxemburg.

Helsinki (24.10.1997 - Juhani Artto) The retirement age in the private sector fell throughout the 1980s even though there were no major reforms in that direction. This was due to a growing number of employees choosing or being forced into early retirement. The background to this lay not only in increasing health problems but also in employer policies of smooth reductions in the size of the workforce.

Trade union organisations often agreed to these early retirement schemes when the alternative was to make long serving workers redundant.

Now the trend has has been reversed. At the end of last year the average age of retirement was about 59 years. The figure is based on the retirement age of all present pensioners. At the end of the 1980s the figure reached its all-time lowest level 58,5 years.

Helsinki (10.10.1997 - Juhani Artto) The entire forest industry was almost shut down in September because of a subcontracting dispute. The question concerned the choice of collective agreement applicable to the 54 maintanence workers at the tissue paper mill of Nokia Paper Oy.

The roots of the conflict go back to autumn 1995 when the company transferred its maintanence unit and staff to a subcontractor, ABB Service. According to an agreement made in autumn 1995, the workers were to work under the collective agreement of the paper industry until early September 1997, instead of that of the metalworking sector to which ABB Service belongs.

Helsinki (26.09.1997 - Juhani Artto) The transport workers union (AKT) has made a concerted effort in the last few weeks to correct the practices of the unorganized employers. According to the union, the grey trucking sector comprises a large number of companies. In its initial stages the campaign is targeting about 150 companies employing 2.000 drivers and ancillary workers.

In August, the union threatened a boycott of companies not complying with the national collective agreement. The union is in a good position to exert pressure for its demand, since it has strong support in the ports. A large share of the econimically vital forest industry export trade goes through the ports. In the late 1980s the union was able to organize a boycott against trade with apartheid South-Africa.

AKT is an active member of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) which has recently strengthened its fight against grey economy.

Helsinki (12.09.1997 - Juhani Artto) One in four workers are ready for a shorter working week without full compensation. This is the rank and file attitude in the Chemical workers union in Finland.

A majority, 74 per cent, says yes to shorter week only if income levels do not fall. 20 per cent approve a slight slide in incomes in favour of shorter working hours. Five per cent of those union members interviewed accept equal cuts in the total number of working hours and in total incomes.

Among unemployed union members the attitude is more flexible. 56 per cent reject the idea of lowering income levels, 26 per cent approve of some lowering, while 14 per cent accept equal cuts in incomes and working time.

The study was made in May-June 1997, based on a sample of 1090 union members. 31,4 per cent responded to the survey.

Helsinki (29.08.1997 - Juhani Artto) Most of the unemployed, 58 per cent of the interviewed, regard trade unions as the most reliable force in the fight for jobs. President Martti Ahtisaari's work to combat unemployment is appreciated by 40 per cent of the unemployed.

Among entrepreneurs, 71 per cent and 67 per cent of the young adults believe that the union movement works seriously for new jobs. Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen's cabinet and the employers score 38 and 37 per cent respectively.

These figures are from an opinion poll conducted by Finnish Gallup. More than one thousand Finns over 15 years old were interviewed in February.

The study reveals that the confidence of the Finns in the future is strenghtening, following the deep recession of the early 1990s.

Helsinki (15.08.1997 - Juhani Artto) The Finnish government has agreed on a two per cent cut in the 1998 income tax rate. This is to compensate for anticipated inflation. The government is ready for greater tax cuts in autumn if wage settlements remain moderate in the next round of collective agreements.

Analysts believe that the employer and trade union organisations will reach a new centralised collective agreement in the next few months. One obstacle, which is probably not insurmountable, lies in the specialised trade problems emphasized by the Union of the Pulp and Paper Workers. Negotiations to solve these special problems began earlier this week.