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Helsinki (01.12.2020 - Heikki Jokinen) The Finnish forest industry decision to unilaterally terminate national level collective bargaining is clearly a risk for companies in that sector and a leap into unchartered waters, says Jarkko Eloranta, President of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK.

"The impacts of the forest industry’s decision are significant, the risks are considerable and mostly unknown as of yet. Companies don’t generally invite risk and unpredictability - they prefer control and predictability", Eloranta told the SAK Delegate Council meeting in November.

"And a functioning national collective bargaining system can deliver this. It does not offer clear victory for either side but it promises constant and predictable results that serve to build the economy and labour market."

In these difficult times we need those who can shoulder responsibility rather than shirk from it, Eloranta stresses.

He points out how wage and salary earners had taken on this responsibility when agreeing to the national Competitiveness Pact 2016. It meant longer working hours for no extra pay, frozen wages and a transfer of some labour social costs from companies to employees. And this change in fortunes would benefit employers from 2017 - 2020 to the tune of 6.6 billion euro.

Now, the employers think they can just take the money and run, Eloranta says. This is not the way responsible parties act.

 We already have what the EU is aiming for

 The forest industry employers association even changed its statutes in November so as to prevent any possibility from entering into any collective agreements with employee unions.

"The employers association pulls out from the joint structures and effectively castrates itself by this change of statutes. And the new statutes come to the fore whenever it is not willing to resolve questions, take responsibility, or build Finnish society, working life and business."

Eloranta appeals to all responsible Finnish employers, entrepreneurs, owners and managers to step up. He is certain that there are many who see the integrity of Finnish society and cooperation in the labour market as vitally important.

"Now is your time to show the way and build bridges, your time to take a step forward. This time needs builders and those who bring us together, not those who seek to tear us apart and sow discord."

Eloranta also points out that the new EU Commission proposal concerning the directive of minimum salaries sets a labour market system based on negotiations between the labour market parties as a goal.

"We already have that, that which the Commission is aiming to achieve all across Europe. And now the employers want to get rid of it"; Eloranta says. The Commission aims to promote collective agreements in case the coverage is low.

Now, when renewing the labour market rules we must take care to ensure that the collective agreement coverage is growing, not diminishing, Eloranta says.

He also stresses that the forest industry’s new policy is not only a concern for the unions it affects directly, it is an issue for all the SAK unions.

"If employers pursue the forest industry policy along the same lines, we know it will be the

end of a Finnish society based on agreements. But we will not travel voluntarily down that road!"

Read more:

Forest industry declares it will no longer take part in collective bargaining (05.10.2020)