Industrial relations

Finland: Latest developments in working life Q4 2019

Conflict in the postal sector and the signing of a collective agreement in the technology sector after tough negotiations are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Finland in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Labour dispute in the postal sector

Conflict in the postal sector escalated with a strike wave, but was eventually resolved towards the end of 2019. At the core of the labour dispute was the announcement that the Finnish state-owned company Posti planned to transfer 700 employees working in mail sorting to a new collective agreement with lower labour costs. [1]The parties involved in the conflict – Finnish Post and Logistics Union (PAU) and the service sector employer organisation Palta – had been trying to find a solution to deadlocked collective agreement negotiations with the help of the national conciliator since October.

PAU called for a strike to put pressure on the stalled negotiations in late October. Around 9,000 employees working in mail sorting and delivery went on a two-week strike on 11 November. Several unions, particularly in the transport sector, joined PAU in solidarity industrial action during November. Finnish Aviation Union (IAU) went on strike between 24 and 26 November, which meant 300 flights with Finland’s national airline Finnair were cancelled affecting about 20,000 passengers. [2] At the same time, several passenger ferries stayed in harbours and most of Helsinki Regional Traffic’s 1,300 buses stood still as the Transport Workers’ Union (AKT) went on support strikes. Other unions supporting industrial action included the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL), the Finnish Electrical Workers’ Union (Sähköliitto), the Railway Union (RAU) and Service Union United (PAM).

Eventually, a solution was found, and industrial action called off when both parties accepted the national conciliator’s third mediation proposal on 27 November. [3] The new collective agreement is in force until 2021 and involves wage rises in line with what will be agreed in the technology and chemical industry sectors. Importantly, 700 workers were moved back to the old collective agreement negotiated by PAU. Heidi Nieminen, president of PAU, was satisfied with the solution and expressed gratitude to the unions that supported the postal workers with sympathy strikes. Employers stated that they are satisfied that a solution was found but stressed that the conflict was costly for both companies and for citizens. [4]

Government reshuffle following postal dispute

Following the postal dispute, the government underwent a crisis when one of the coalition partners, the Centre Party, stated it had lost confidence in the then Prime Minister Antti Rinne. According to the Centre Party, this was due to inconsistent and unclear statements about the roles of Rinne and Sirpa Paatero, Minister of Local Government and Ownership Steering, during the labour dispute. Rinne stepped down and was replaced by Social Democratic Party Deputy Chair Sanna Marin. The government coalition continued with some cabinet reshuffles, and all government parties stated that they are committed to the government programme introduced in June 2019.

Wage agreement in the technology industry

Another wave of industrial action occurred in November and December due to stalled collective agreement negotiations in the export sector. This included a three-day strike, covering approximately 92,000 blue- and white-collar employees working in various industry sectors and a six-day lockout, affecting around 4,300 employees working in sawmills and plywood factories. [5]

The tough negotiations in the technology industry – traditionally the first sectoral agreement to be negotiated due to its significance for the Finnish economy – were finally concluded on 4 January 2020 when Industrial Union (Teollisuusliitto) and Technology Industries of Finland (Teknologiateollisuus) signed a new collective agreement. The agreement, which is in force until November 2021, entails wage rises of 3.3% within two years for around 100,000 workers in the technology industry. [6]

 


Footnotes

  1. ^ Eurofound (2019), Finland: latest developments in working life Q3 2019 , 22 November.
  2. ^ HS (2019), Helsinki-Vantaalla tunnelma oli rauhallinen useiden lentojen perumisesta huolimatta, tukilakot vaikuttavat myös tiistain lento­liikenteeseen , 23 November.
  3. ^ Valtakunnansovittelija (2019), Postin työriidassa sopu – kaikki työnseisaukset päättyvät ja uhkat peruuntuvat , 27 November.
  4. ^ HS (2019), Postin riitaan syntyi sopu, lakot loppuvat – 700 paketti­lajittelijaa pysyvät Paun jäseninä , 27 November.
  5. ^ HS (2019), Vientiteollisuuden tehtaat käynnistyivät, metsä­teollisuudessa lakko vaihtui työsulkuun , 12 December.
  6. ^ YLE (2020), Teollisuusliitto ja Teknologiateollisuus ovat hyväksyneet uuden työehtosopimuksen – Helle: "Ei ihanteellinen ratkaisu, mutta sen kanssa voi elää" , 4 January.

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