Paperworkers' Union disassociates itself from national-level incomes policy

At a meeting on 11 June 1997, the Finnish Paperworkers' Union disassociated itself from national incomes policy discussions, arguing for individual agreements for each union. It claimed that there are special problems in the paper industry which necessitate an individual approach.

Jarmo Lähteenmäki, the chair of the Finnish Paperworkers' Union- one of the most powerful unions in the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) - announced after a meeting on 11 June 1997 that the union will not enter national negotiations on incomes policy. Instead, "the Paperworkers' Union will focus directly on talks with individual unions" - ie, it will engage only in direct industry-level negotiations with employers in its sector. The union cited special problems in its sector which prevented it from participating in comprehensive national incomes policy discussions, such as the utilisation of outside labour in factories, the move to shorten working hours, the contracting-out of different factory operations, and the decision by two of the largest firms in the forestry industry to discontinue personnel funds (a form of profit-sharing scheme).

The union's decision to negotiate at industry level has made the realisation of the next comprehensive incomes policy agreement much more difficult, because in spring 1997 the central trade union and employers' organisations and the Government generally agreed that the prerequisite for any new comprehensive incomes policy agreement was widespread participation. As a result, the pressures faced by other unions to disassociate themselves from national discussions on incomes policy have increased significantly.

The announcement by the Finnish Paperworkers' Union is generally seen as a setback. Until now, other important organisations took a very positive view of the likelihood of agreeing a new comprehensive incomes policy agreement; they will now reassess their positions. If negotiations on incomes policy were to be carried out by each union individually, there is the danger that it could lead to increased competition between the unions and to wage inflation in the Finnish economy.

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