New government programme promises cooperation instead of confrontation in the labour market

Vuokratyö

The incoming Finnish Government is committed to making almost a full U-turn on labour market issues in comparison with the line taken by the outgoing Government.

The five party leaders participating in the negotiations to form a new Government released on Monday, June 3, a 193-page draft government programme. It promises cooperation in the labour market instead of confrontation which was one of the hallmarks of the outgoing right wing Government headed by PM Sipilä.

Participating in negotiations to form a new government include the Social Democratic Party, the Centre Party, the Green Party, the Left Alliance and the Swedish People’s Party. The incoming PM Antti Rinne is the leader of the Social Democratic Party and a former President of the Trade Union Pro.

The main goal of the draft programme is to raise the employment rate from today’s 72.4 per cent to 75 per cent. One measure in reaching this goal is to develop employment services in a more active direction. More and better focused individual services, and a move away from penalising job-seekers which the outgoing Government had introduced.

The much criticized and unfair activation model for unemployed people will be scrapped. It was a system designed to cut unemployment benefits rather than providing assistance and motivation in finding a job. The new Government is instead preparing a model of more personalised employment planning, which will be formulated together with the employment offices.

The programme also looks towards more transparency on salaries. This would be a tool to bridge the gender pay gap. For those working on zero-hours contracts the draft is good news. It promises to improve the situation of those with short term jobs and zero-hour-contracts.

Tripartite cooperation is back

One of the major goals concerning the labour market is to support the longstanding Finnish tradition based on agreements and to strengthen trust in the labour market. This goes against the line of the outgoing Government which chose a line mainly supportive of and beneficial to employers and which sought to limit the autonomy of labour market parties to negotiate.

The draft programme even explicitly states that the Government will protect the weaker partners in the labour market, namely the employees. The starting point of the new Government will be to develop working life reforms on the basis of tripartite cooperation, the draft says. Tripartite negotiations were not even mentioned in the outgoing PM Sipilä government programme.

Antti Rinne, the incoming PM is asking all labour market organisations to come together “for genuine tripartite discussions” and to find ways to boost employment. Both the trade union confederations and employers associations have voiced their approval in response to this call.
The much discussed topic of increasing local agreements at company level is included in the draft. The goal is to develop local agreements based on mutual trust, the draft says. The key question in reaching this goal is to guarantee that employees have sufficient information, the draft outlines.
This, again, is a completely different tack to the one taken by outgoing Government. PM Sipilä’s government programme had a goal to dodge collective agreements and instead agree more on salaries and working hours at the local company level. They planned to do this by legislation, but did not succeed.

It is no surprise that the new Government and PM is strenuously pushing for cooperation in the labour market. The stubborn confrontational line of PM Sipilä caused a lot of distrust and even led to strikes in the past few years.

Antti Rinne made this clear earlier in his May Day speech in Helsinki: “A small country like Finland cannot afford to reject the culture of compromise and a contract society. We cannot afford a self-inflicted crisis of confidence”, as quoted in the Yle News.

The programme draft will now go before a decision-making process in each of the five parties. Should they all accept it, a new Government will be formed very soon.

Read also: Activation model neither activates people nor helps in finding a job, it simply cuts unemployment benefits (20.12.2018)

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