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Helsinki (10.06.2022 – Heikki Jokinen) The long quest for a collective agreement in the municipal sector finally resulted in a pay deal. But one that doesn’t include all municipal employees.

The struggle to reach a new collective agreement for 245,000 municipal employees proved to be especially difficult this year. Tehy and Super, the unions representing nurses, are demanding a substantial pay rise due to the major shortage of nurses in social and health care.

For similar reasons and to keep municipal sector jobs attractive, other unions in the municipal sector also demanded pay rises that go above the level unions in the private sector have reached so far.

The conciliation committee made a proposal which was accepted by all other unions except Tehy and Super. However, on May 23 negotiation for a new collective agreement for all other professionals other than nurses failed.

This could have led to a very difficult situation: a major part of the public services going on without a collective agreement. The old agreement expired at the end of February. So, the original negotiations which ended in no deal had to be restarted – without Tehy and Super.

On June 8, all unions in the negotiations accepted the new proposal. As the nurses’ unions are still not part of it, the agreement will cover some 70 per cent of employees in the municipal sector.

Five-year pay programme

The new agreement includes two parts. The collective agreement covers three years. An additional pay programme will raise pay by approximately one percentage point on top of the standard pay increase every year for five years.

For this year, it means from the beginning of June two per cent pay rises for all who earn more than 2,300 euro a month. For those earning less, a lump sum of 46 euro. In October, a special payment of 0.5 per cent follows.

The deal includes an unusual clause. The level of pay rise in 2023 has been agreed on and is set at 1.9 per cent. But should the unions in the export industry get better pay rises, the difference will be added to the municipal pay.

For example: if the industrial unions can negotiate a 2.3 per cent pay rise for the year 2023, this means that municipal employees will get a 1.9 plus a 0.4 per cent pay rise.

From 2023, the five-year pay programme kicks in. It gives roughly one per cent extra pay on top of the normal pay rise.

If the nurses’ unions reach a better pay programme, the new municipal deal includes a clause saying that this will be extended to cover others working in the social and health care sector and early childhood education, too.

“This solution breaks with the Finnish labour market pattern, where all other sectors have been kept as prisoners of the industry pay rises”, says Päivi Niemi-Laine, President of JHL, the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors.

“On the basis of this deal, we can begin to fill the pay gap of the municipal sector. There is still a way to go, but we are on the right road”, she adds.

Millariikka Rytkönen, President of Tehy - The Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland, sees it as a good thing that the other unions made a deal and Tehy and Super can now focus on how to resolve the shortage of nurses. 

“The deal arrived at by others does not limit the possibilities of Tehy and Super to negotiate a separate deal for nurses. The industrial peace of nurses can only be bought from the nurses’ unions”, she says.

Riku Aalto, President of the Industrial Union considers the new municipal deal problematic. In his interview in the magazine Demokraatti, he asks whether it means that the Industrial Union will be pressed by employers and Government into accepting extremely moderate pay deals in order to guarantee the municipal economy.

“The situation would be untenable if we cannot negotiate as good deals as we need in our branch”, he says.

Read more:

Municipal sector negotiations deadlocked (02.06.2022)