Helsinki (14.08.2019 - Heikki Jokinen) The negotiation round for the new collective agreements will begin in the next few weeks. One of the first of those to negotiate is the Industrial Union.
In 2016, the Finnish economy was not in good shape. Most of the unions agreed to - under heavy pressure from the right-wing Government - to add the 24 extra annual working hours without a pay in their collective agreements.
This was a part of the three-year national Competitiveness Pact. Now unions say this was an exceptional measure and it is time to return to normality, and abandon the extra hours. Employers associations for their part say that the change is permanent.
As part of the employers lobbying the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy Etla published a report affirming that the unpaid extra hours had a very significant positive employment impact.
However, the major employment impact was, according to the report, caused by another kind of pay-cut, as a portion of the Employees' pension insurance contribution was transferred from employers to employees.
Riku Aalto, President of the Industrial Union agrees that the Competitiveness Pact had a positive impact for Finnish economy.
"But this should not be overestimated. In particular unpaid extended working time as a contributory factor is exaggerated thoughtlessly", he says, and adds that the practice in the Industrial Union agreements is varied.
In the technology industry working hours were extended on average by 17.7 hours. The extension agreed to will come to an end at the end of this year. In three of the Industrial Union sectors the extension was not used at all. 25 out of the 34 Industrial Union collective agreements include the 24 hours unpaid extension. This will the Union says be removed from its collective agreements.
"The Competitiveness Pact was agreed to at a certain time to reach certain goals", Aalto says. "Now this unpaid extra work has no grounds for its continued existence. The fate or future of Finnish industry will not be solved by unpaid work."
Aalto also stresses, that changes in the Employees' pension insurance contribution has benefited companies in 2017 - 2019 to the tune of 3.5 billion euro and this will continue.
The competitiveness of Finland is now good, Aalto says. "The value added to our manufacturing industry was increased in the years 2017 and 2018 by about 12 per cent. The pay deals made in the countries competing with us have also been quite expensive."
The above mentioned Etla report states that Greece has the longest working hours in Europe. Is that where our employers are looking to as a model, Aalto asks.