Agreement in chemicals sector opens new collective bargaining round

In June 2007, the Chemical Industry Federation of Finland and the Chemical Workers’ Union reached a new collective agreement for the sector. The 30-month deal is the first in the current national wage policy agreement and is expected to serve as a benchmark for wage increases in other sectors. Most of the other sectors are set to begin talks in August. In the meantime, the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries and the Metalworkers’ Union has also approved a two-year agreement.

On 8 June 2007, a new collective agreement for the chemicals sector was reached by the Chemical Industry Federation of Finland (Kemianteollisuus), affiliated to the Confederation of Finnish Industries (Elinkeinoelämän Keskusliitto, EK), and the Chemical Workers’ Union (Kemianliitto), affiliated to the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (Suomen Ammattiliittojen Keskusjärjestö, SAK). The 30-month deal is the first to be reached by a sector involved in the current national wage policy agreement and is expected to serve as a benchmark for wage increases in other sectors. The agreement covers about 20,000 workers in the chemicals, plastics, oil, natural gas and petrochemicals industries.

Wage increase in chemical sector

Following initial lump-sum increases, the first blanket wage increase of 3.4% is to come into effect in October 2007. This will be followed by a second increase of 2.5% in September 2008 and a third wage rise of 1.5% in May 2009. The deal also provides for two additional increases of 0.4% each in 2008 and 2009. Thus, the trade unions’ aim in the talks has been an overall increase of 8.2% over a two-year period.

The Chair of the board of EK, Antti Herlin, advised trade unions not to focus on the labour agreements of other sectors, but instead to concentrate on assessing the productivity and competitiveness of their own sectors. Mr Herlin stated that the large wage increases secured by trade unions in the chemicals sector should not act as a guide for even higher pay demands in other sectors. He added in a statement:

Amid hard international competition, one truly cannot say that an agreement in a single sector would lay the foundation for talks in some other sectors. This fact has always been there, but accelerated globalisation only underscores the importance of the matter.

Two-year agreement in metalworking sector

The Federation of Finnish Technology Industries (Teknologiateollisuus) and the Finnish Metalworkers’ Union (Metallityöväenliitto) have also reached a new two-year collective agreement for the metalworking sector. Metallityöväenliitto outlined in a statement that its delegation in the talks had been unanimous in recommending that the union’s central council approve the outcome of the negotiations.

The agreement provides for a wage hike of up to 4.4% for metalworkers in 2007, in addition to a €350 lump-sum payment this year and a further 3.5% or higher increase in 2008.

Commentary

The last set of collective agreements, namely those arising from the 2005 bargaining round, is due to expire on 30 September 2007. Following the announcement by Teknologiateollisuus that it would follow a decentralised approach in this year’s wage bargaining round, the central social partner organisations started to prepare for the upcoming talks at sector and trade union level (FI0705019I). Most of the sectors are due to begin their talks in August 2007. In the public sector, collective bargaining for the new agreements has not yet started. Commentators believe that the negotiations will be tough, particularly in the public sector, as several large trade unions are expecting pay rises that would exceed the general line of this bargaining round (FI0705029I).

Pertti Jokivuori, Statistics Finland

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