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Katarina Murtos speech at ILO Conference

I am very honored that I was given the opportunity to hold the closing speech here in the ILO Conference. My name is Katarina Murto and I work as a Director of Finnish Confederation of Professionals STTK.

As we all are aware, the transition in the labor market and the changes in society are challenging us all and different countries in different ways. Challenges, which have been going on in global economic are reflecting strongly to the labor market and working life.

Finland has been in an economic recession for several years. The labor market organizations in Finland did historically exceptional and important agreement last spring. The Competitiveness Pact was signed and finally accepted in the beginning of summer. The Pact collectively weakened employees’ terms of work.

In Finland we still have a challenge of translating the path to economic growth, growing export and decrease unemployment, in particular long-term unemployment. Now it is important that this Competitiveness Pact will have an influence for increasing number of jobs, courage to create new jobs and increase investments. But as important it is to have a faith and more positive thinking to create more dynamic working life, in which all work is valuable and safe enough.

The world-wide economic challenges and changes in working life will change also the operation of labor market organizations and trade unions, I believe both in the Nordic countries and elsewhere in the world. Challenges and their proportions of course, differ strongly from country to country.

In Finland, the trade unions want to hold on to the right to negotiate collective agreements and collective bargaining. Collective agreements will bring the minimum protection for workers and prevent market distortions. They also maintain the stability and predictability, as well as labor peace. But of course, we can’t and we should not close our eyes from the world and the problems of those countries, which don´t have the rights to collective bargaining and safe conditions to work. International advocacy and dialogue are certainly in a significant role in the future as part of the tripartite negotiations and social lobbying.

The forms of work will be extended. Globalization and digitalization will change the world of work. Some occupations will disappear and new occupations arise. Social partners should increasingly be able to predict these changes and realize what it means to the terms of work and also operation in the workplaces.

In the future we will increasingly be facing the question which country’s labor law and collective agreements are applied, when part of the work is transferred to substrates, digitalization and robotization are progressing rapidly, and still functions are spread across the international market. What happens to the safety and welfare in the work?

I believe that a major challenge for the world of work will be to ensure reasonable working conditions and salary. If in the future the work is being done more and more as self-employed, how we are able to secure reasonable terms of work and conditions, occupational safety, working time protection, occupational health care, competition law and functioning markets etc. so that two types of labor market and marginalization won’t be created. Even now, for example, involuntarily zero-contract workers live with constant problems of insecurity in their livelihood.

Also, the collective bargaining system will face challenges. In Finland, the trend is inevitably taking us more and more towards bargaining at the workplace level. Collective agreements will certainly remain, but their role in preventing a stabilizing labor market will rise to debate.

However, I would like to point out, that in Finland, as well as in all the Nordic countries, we need analytical discussion of the structure of collective bargaining and labor and social security laws and the possible needs for developing them. But it must be done in a controlled way, and considering all the possible consequences of the various options carefully. No changes needs to be done just for the sake of changes, but because remaining in the same place would be more harmful.

The importance of ILO conventions and their implementation will continue to increase in the future. This has also been seen in Finland in the past year. The basic and human rights issues have been consequently part of the dialogue during preparations for legislation.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to raise a few, in my opinion, internationally important issues concerning working life, which we all could, and should, work more in order to develop good working life and productivity.

The first is the promotion of gender equality and equality in working life. Cultures are mixed more and more throughout all the working places all around the world. Equality, non-discrimination and human rights are largely questions of attitude and values. We can set the framework and minimum conditions in legislation, but if we want to ensure that these things really are moving forward, we also need to change our attitudes and to ensure that practical measures really work.

Another very important matter is the well-being and coping at work. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Finland was calculating the cost of lost labor input in Finland. It is annually approximately 24 billion euros. This sum is composed by absences due to sickness, occupational diseases, accidents at work and working when being ill. This sum is major.

Last spring STTK challenged all the Finnish working places to promote well-being in the work and we intend to keep this subject strongly under discussion also in the future. Well-being can be increased by good leadership and management. It improves productivity in the working place, which will translate into improved results.

The third essential element of the future world of work is the know-how. The changes caused by digitalization are enormous. We need to ensure the adequate level of competence of employees through both education and life-long career-term. We need to make sure they have resources and abilities for continuous development of working skills.

Europe was challenged during the past year by massive immigration and float of asylum seekers. The best way for integration is access to employment as quickly as possible. However, we in STTK, do not want to create two level labor markets. The same conditions and terms of work must be followed when working in the same area and same jobs.

I believe the social actors and the trade unions will continue to play a strong role in the development of working life and the labor and social security legislation. Our job is to make working life better and have constructive dialogue with employers, other stakeholders, political parties and international organizations. Only with an open dialogue and mutual respect we can build a secure and prosperous world of work together.

On my behalf, I would like to thank You all for excellent conference and wish you a pleasant autumn.