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JUHANI ARTTO
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Industrial unions aim to secure employees' purchasing power
by tighter mutual coordination of the bargaining processes


Helsinki (09.09.2010 - Juhani Artto) The leaders of five industrial unions* and the Construction union announced on Wednesday their determination to cooperate closely during the on-going round of collective bargaining. At this stage cooperation primarily means an exchange of information and common analyses of inflation and other economic factors. Concrete forms of support are still open and to be considered later on if needed.

The industrial unions announced this plan on Wednesday and represent almost 200,000 union wage and
 salary earners. The Construction Union has some 60,000 rank and file members.

The six unions agree on these starting points in the bargaining that mainly consists of pay negotiations. The purchasing power of employees in all industries has to be secured by pay rises, the unions say. As inflation is predicted to rise by more than 2 per cent next year, the 1 per cent upper limit for pay rises, set by the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK, is clearly too low.

The union leaders have not yet sought to concretise their pay demands except for the Union of Salaried Employees TU, which is going for a
salary increase of close to 3 per cent in the wood mechanical industry. TU has already threatened strike action in the mechanical wood industry. Limited industrial action is due to begin on September 16.

Most of the collective agreements of the six unions are valid until early
2013, only wage and salary increases for 2011 and 2012 being open. However, if the unions and their employer counterparts fail to agree on pay decisions, the agreements may be cancelled before their expiratory date.

The need for the closer coordination and cooperation between the unions is very clear. It is a natural response to the manoeuvres on the employer’s side. All power seems to have been concentrated in the hands of the employer associations' umbrella organization EK. In their joint press conference in Helsinki union leaders admitted that, in the previous bargaining round, this kind of concentration of power did surprise them.

Now, in their joint statement the six unions say this: "Bargaining has to
take place between the negotiators of the due industries, without
intervention by third parties." In other words: the six unions demand that EK stop its intervention in industry-specific negotiations.

* The five industrial unions are the Electrical Workers' Union, the
Paperworkers' Union, the Union of Salaried Employees TU, the Wood and Allied Workers' Union and TEAM that organizes chemical, oil, graphic, textile, rubber, glass and pharmaceutical industries.