Lyly proposes a common minimum pay rise demand
for the new bargaining round
Juhani Artto) SAK's
President Lauri Lyly wants trade unions to have a common minimum demand
in the upcoming negotiations on wage and salary rises. He outlined this
initiative last week during a SAK seminar. Several trade union leaders
reacted positively to this proposal on hearing it but the overall tone
was rather cautious.
initiative may be seen as a reaction to the somewhat mixed experiences
from the previous round of collective bargaining that came to an end in
May 2010. The round in question was marked by the very noticeable and
strenuous intervention of the leading employer organization, the
Confederation of Finnish Industries EK. It sought to use an iron-fist in
an attempt to steer its member organizations - especially in trying to
keep wage and salary rises below the 0.5 per cent
as defined by EK itself.
On the union side there was a certain degree of coordination during the
bargaining process but not approaching anything like what was
orchestrated by EK. EK's
was exceeded in the agreements but still the tough stance it took
clearly had an impact on the agreed low level of wage and salary rises.
However, one must also remember that there were even more important
factors, such as the 8 per cent dip in gross national income.
In August 2010 when the new round of collective bargaining had barely
begun EK again hastened to announce the maximum pay rises it regards as
reasonable. Wages and salaries should not be increased by more than one
per cent which would be the maximum, EK insisted.
Union leaders were quick to dump EK's
criteria on limits. They pointed out that inflation is accelerating,
taxes rising and the economy reviving. Just before EK's
announcement, employers in the technology industry agreed with the
Union on a 1.5 per cent pay rise. Soon after the announcement the
Union signed two agreements that raise wages by 1.2 per cent and in
addition gives electricians a lump sum of EUR120.
Lyly did not mention any concrete figure as a proper minimum demand for
the wage and salary rises. According to him unions and confederations
should first consider the proposal in principle, and if the reaction is
positive, then concretize the demand in mutual discussions.
Pay rises should maintain the purchasing power of wage and salary
earners and safeguard equal pay development, Lyly explained. In addition
rises should be linked to the strength of the national economy and take
into recognition changes of inflation, employment and productivity, he
Lyly expects unions to consider also whether the minimum targets should
be defined commonly for all or should the targets be industry-specific.
A further question is how tightly unions should commit themselves to
such common goals. Furthermore: What kind of solidarity should unions be
prepared to offer a union that is not able to reach the common minimum
In their first reactions a few union leaders, such as Timo Räty and
Matti Harjuniemi, the Presidents of the transport and construction
unions, have expressed their readiness -to reach these
common goals- to consider use of industrial action.
Among the factors that make it difficult for the unions to cooperate in
the new round of collective bargaining is the wide time gap between the
bargaining periods in various industries.