Helsinki (13.09.2019 – Heikki Jokinen) In 2016, the three-year national Competitiveness Pact added 24 extra annual unpaid working hours for a majority of Finnish wage and salary earners. This has not had any positive effects at all on working places, quite the opposite according to a survey conducted by SAK, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions.
A total of 84 per cent of those 894 SAK member unions’ shop stewards and health and safety representatives who responded to the survey say the extension has had no effect on the hiring of new employees. But 16 per cent say that it has in fact been detrimental and lessened the number of new employees hired.
The national Competitiveness Pact was the brainchild and pet project of the then PM Juha Sipilä and his right-wing Government. It forced the unions to accept the extended working hours without pay. One of the Government’s motivations was to boost employment.
“On the branches with a lot of part-time employees the only effect of the Competitiveness Pact has been that the weekly working hours have been cut even more”, claims a shop steward working in the service branch and who took part in the survey.
Wild variety of implementations
The methods to put into practice the 24 unpaid annual extra hours varies a lot. Of those who replied, 27 per cent say that in their working place the extension was not been implemented at all and 9 per cent say that the extension had been compensated by normal pay.
But 64 per cent says that in their working place the extension has been unpaid. The ways of doing it has varied a lot: for example some holidays were cancelled, daily working hours were made six minutes longer or weekly working hours were extended by 30 minutes.
There are even cases where pay had been cut by two hours a month without extending the actual working hours.
The extra hours are mostly used for work, but also for professional training, physical exercise or other well-being actions. In 5 per cent of workplaces the extra hours has been entirely used for something other than work, and 75 per cent completely for work. The remaining 20 per cent is made up of a combination of both work other activities.
The atmosphere in working places has been suffering from forced free working hours. A total of 97 per cent, of those who responded, say that this unpaid extra work has not brought any improvement to the atmosphere of the workplace.
And 99 per cent say that the extra hours has not improved well-being at work. 94 per cent believe that employees view the unpaid extra work as being unfair.