New round of talks for a national labour accord begin


Talks surrounding the so called social contract promoted by the Sipilä Government begin to take shape. The Government has invited labour market organisations to agree on what kind of measures are needed to boost the Finnish economy and how to reach these goals, giving them until August 21 to come up with a plan.

The social contract idea has not worked according to plan so far. The Government Programme set a target to improve Finnish economic competitiveness by reducing unit labour costs by at least five per cent. The contract should show the way how.

However, previous attempts to reach a labour accord failed. The Government adopted more or less fully the employers’ shopping list for labour market measures. This included an idea to make Finns work two and half weeks more in a year without any pay increase.

Now the Government has learned its lesson on the proper way to proceed. It asked labour market organisations to agree on ”a precise objective to be achieved by the social partners, taking into account the Government’s conditions regarding improved competitiveness and change security.”

With change security it means better support – like re-training or severance pay – for employees who are made redundant. Trade unions have clearly said that a deal cannot be reached if employees alone have to shoulder all the burden.

The Government is also asking the social partners to come up with a schedule and agenda on how to proceed.

Confederations are ready to negotiate

All three trade union confederations’ chairpersons went out of their way to stress that negotiations need to be balanced. Results cannot be reached only by punishing wage and salary earners and making working hours longer.

The main concern of wage and salary earners is to have stronger job security and change security”, says STTK chairperson Antti Palola.

He also reasserts that in spite of the name so called social contract is a pure labour market agreement. The issues will be decided between labour market organisations and the details will have to be written into the collective agreements.

SAK chairperson Lauri Lyly says that they will also take to the negotiation table issues like change security, better handling of lay-offs and the position of employees in companies.

Lyly also wants the working life issues of the Government Programme to be discussed as part of the social contract. The Government wants to ease regulation concerning short-time jobs.

Akava chairperson Sture Fjäder say that a deal that brings better employment, growth and purchasing power to citizens is to everyone’s advantage.

This means that all parties must be prepared to be flexible with their demands.”

The former National Conciliator of labour disputes, Juhani Salonius has been assigned to help in the process towards finding a deal.

Helsinki (06.08.2015 – Heikki Jokinen)