Finland: Employers' organisations move away from central-level bargaining

On 1 May 2016, the Confederation of Finnish Industries ceased to conduct central-level bargaining, moving instead to supporting its members in their sectoral-level bargaining.

In November 2015, the Confederations of Finnish Industries (EK) decided to change its internal rules, meaning that EK will no longer be able to conclude any central-level wage agreements on behalf of its members. As of May 2016, EK will be supporting and coordinating its members in their sectoral-level bargaining, rather than concluding central-level agreements itself.

According to EK, it has been working on the decision for some time. It believes that the current economic landscape demands greater flexiblity than central-level bargaining permits. The decision is also an important step in the confederation's overall aim to increase local-level bargaining. Centralised labour market agreements have a long tradition in Finland, having been concluded since the late 1960s. In 2007, the centralised system appeared to have come to an end when EK refused to negotiate a new national agreement, instead insisting that negotiations should be at sectoral level. Following the economic crisis, however, in 2011 EK returned to the collective bargaining table. This time – given the change in rules – it seems that EK sees the decision as being definite.  

The decision did not come as a surprise to the peak-level trade unions. The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) was however disappointed with the decision, stating that it would weaken the harmonisation of labour market policy and the public economy. The Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK) stressed that a move towards more decentralised and local bargaining will have implications for wage setting in less productive sectors and the public sector, and that it will be harder to address inequalities in wage formation. 

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