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Union confederation leaders' worried about deterioration
of three-tier cooperation


Helsinki (20.12.2010 - Juhani Artto) Since the late 1960s three-tier cooperation between the government and the labour market organizations has been an important element in the promotion of economic growth and in the development of the Finnish welfare system. Now there are serious signs of deterioration in this three-tier cooperation endeavour.

Therefore, it is no small wonder that the Presidents of the two largest union confederations, SAK's Lauri Lyly and STTK's Mikko Mäenpää, have become alarmed by this trend. They have sought to analyse what has been happening in the latest issues of their organizations' magazines, Palkkatyöläinen and sttklehti.

The present government (2010-), and the one before it (2007-2010), were keen to cultivate the idea that they were supporters of three-tier cooperation but their deeds have not always lived up to these assurances. These two governments set up dozens of three-tier task forces but neither have respected the results of their findings nor been committed to their proposals.

However, it is within the employer stronghold EK, The Confederation of Finnish Industries that the interest in three-tier cooperation has most clearly waned. Up until now, in this respect, its most important decision has been to abandon, as an alternative, comprehensive income policy agreements. EK is not interested in working for domestic consensus as the export industry now rules the EK, Lyly concludes.

He warns the employers that probably they will have to face a more radical trade union movement if the three-tier negotiating mechanism continues to deteriorate. This would mean more strikes, rallies and boycotts.

STTK's Mäenpää stresses the need to coordinate economic, tax and labour market policies. In the past much national policy and legislation was formulated during regular meetings between representatives of the government and the labour market organizations. At present that culture no longer exists, he regrets to say.

"EK, labour confederations and political decision makers should have the ability to create a common understanding on what will - or above all what should - take place in the economy, taxation and labour market policy in the next few years", Mäenpää maintains.

If such a common understanding were to emerge, then collective agreements could be negotiated with less friction by national unions in various sectors of the business world, Mäenpää says.

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