Metalworkers' Union strongly advocates incomes policy agreement

Download article in original language : FI9909120NFI.DOC

In September 1999, the Finnish Metalworkers' Union announced its aim of achieving a new incomes policy agreement to succeed the current national deal, which expires in January 2000. The union has threatened a general strike, if necessary, in the event that sector-specific problems in the forestry and chemical industries, which form an obstacle to reaching an overall national agreement, cannot be resolved.

In September 1999, the Metalworkers' Union (Metalli), which is affiliated to the Central Organisation for Finnish Trade Unions (Suomen Ammattiliittojen Keskusjärjestö, SAK), announced its position on the arrangements which should replace the current two-year national incomes policy agreement (FI9801145F), which expires in January 2000. Metalli is in favour of a new national deal, but recognises that there are sector-specific problems in industries such as forestry and chemicals which may present an obstacle to an overall national agreement. The union thus stated that it was ready - even, if necessary, through the threat of a general strike - to support the Paper Workers' Union (Paperiliitto) and other unions that are demanding a solution to their sector-specific problems. It considers that achievement of a third consecutive incomes policy agreement which is effective and promotes employment is so important for workers that it is ready to support a united front in order to solve sector-specific problems.

According to the Metalworkers' Union, the stability and improved employment rate brought about in Finland by two consecutive incomes policy agreements since 1998 have constituted a record, even in the estimation of the OECD. Simultaneously, the development of the real earnings of wage earners has been positive (FI9909118F), and interest rates and inflation have remained low - which has had a favourable effect on the country's economy and employment situation. To ensure the continuation of this trend, the union sees the necessity for a third successive incomes policy agreement.

Metalli further considers that tripartite cooperation and the right of the trade union movement to speak out on matters of crucial importance to its members - such as social security and unemployment insurance, extension of the "general validity" (FI9906109N) of collective agreements and, thereby, improvement of job security - should continue. At the same time, it opposes any attempts to deal with such issues by way of legislation (FI9810179F).

The union is afraid that the alternative to an incomes policy agreement would be a trend that is unfavourable to low-paid sectors. It is feared that the "concertina" of pay differentials would rip apart and that only in a few sectors would it be possible to award pay increases of a magnitude that would enable a positive development in real earnings in the event of a break with the current low-inflation trend. Metalli stresses that an incomes policy agreement will not come about on its own - it must be worked at.

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