Trade Union News from Finland archive from 15 August 1997 to 28 May 2013 at Juhani Artto's archive

Helsinki (21.12.2001 - Juhani Artto) Finland's new Employment Contracts Act (no. 55 of 2001) took effect on 1 June 2001. The last bone of contention in the long process of drafting the law concerned the general applicability of collective agreements. The trade union movement lobbied strongly on this point and secured an acceptable formulation. The country's conservative Coalition Party, on the other hand, sought to weaken the regulations on this point, which is perceived by employee organisations as one of the utmost importance.

This dispute has not yet been fully resolved, however, as application of the Act is more than a mere technicality. Although collective bargaining is very much the norm in Finland, there remain some industries, trades and professions in which it has not yet taken root. This means that the independent organ appointed to decide on the general applicability of collective agreements is currently under considerable scrutiny. This organ has so far authorised 17 collective agreements as generally binding, while two were rejected. There are about 200 national collective agreements and the organ must consider all of them by October 2002.

Helsinki (03.12.2001 - Juhani Artto) In 2001-2002 the International Labour Organisation - ILO is spending USD 40 million on its SafeWork and related field programmes, in which most of the organisation's operations for occupational health and safety are concentrated. Programme Director Jukka Takala* gives an idea of the magnitude of the challenge with four simple but shocking statistics:

  • Injuries at work and occupational diseases claim 1.3 million deaths annually.
  • There are 250 million accidents at workplaces each year.
  • 160 million working men and women contract occupational diseases each year.
  • Approximately four per cent of gross national product is lost through injuries at work and occupational diseases.

Although the ILO invests heavily in the work of this sector, the available funds have little far-reaching impact. This means that the first challenge facing the SafeWork programme is to define its priorities properly. For this purpose a global expert consultation was organised in Geneva in December 1999. According to the summary of the expert consultative meeting, "the programme elements should have measurable goals that would be easy to evaluate after implementing the programme".

Helsinki (20.11.2001 - Juhani Artto) Smoking restrictions at workplaces in Finland were voluntary until March 1995 when a reform to the Tobacco Control Act prohibited smoking in all common and public premises. The new legislation gives employers two options when implementing the Act: either impose a total ban on smoking or allow smoking in designated smoking rooms with separate ventilation systems and lower air pressure than non-smoking facilities.

A new study* indicates that in terms of reducing smoking and nicotine concentrations in indoor air the legislation has clearly achieved better results than the voluntary programme. This study was conducted at twelve medium-sized and large workplaces by investigators from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Helsinki ( 02.11.2001 - Aino Pietarinen) "I expect the consumer movement to become more active and the Clean Clothes -campaign to take root in Finland," says Textile and Garment Workers' Union President Auli Korhonen, and she stresses: "The Fair Trade system is already part of our work and is helping to enlarge our knowledge of ethical production. The degree of attention given to ethical questions will depend on the activity of consumers and investors."

Ms Korhonen notes that ethical production has been on the textile and garment industry agenda for at least twenty years. Change is slow in coming, but some progress has been made. In their collective agreement the union and its employer counterpart commit themselves to respecting the industry's ethical guidelines and ILO conventions. Back in 1997 they agreed on ethical standards at European Union level.