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SAK wants lowest pay to be raised to EUR1,800 per month by 2016

Helsinki (23.05.2011 - Juhani Artto) The union confederation SAK is set to approve EUR1,800 per month as its next goal for minimum pay. This proposal is included in the draft action program 2011-2016 for the SAK Congress on June 6-8 in Tampere. The idea is to reach the goal by 2016.

For readers in low pay countries the goal may sound extravagant but when the high level of Finnish taxation, cost of living and prices for daily necessities is taken into consideration  EUR1,800 per month only offers a very basic standard of living, even for a single person.

In real terms this would bring it into line with the norm set by the EU in its Social Charter. According to the latter a wage or salary is decent when the after-tax or net income is at least 60 per cent of the national median pay.

At the moment the lowest acceptable pay should be close to EUR1,600 per month if the norm is respected. Unfortunately, this is not the situation. There are still employees, holding down full-time jobs, who receive less than EUR1,500 per month - SAK's minimum pay goal in recent years.

In Finland there is no legislation regarding minimum pay. The lowest levels of pay are determined by collective agreements. Most of them are generally binding in nature. Also employers who are not organised have to apply them. This, with the high organising rate, means that an overwhelming majority of wage and salary earners are covered by the collective agreements.

The entire Finnish trade union movement is unanimous in rejecting an alternative model where minimum standards would be defined by legislation. In most EU Member States there is minimum pay legislation.

In Finland, as elsewhere within the EU, the most miserable wages are paid to immigrant labour working for shady domestic and foreign employers. And then there are thousands of minors and immigrants who distribute ads and free-of-charge publications getting in return only a few euros per hour.

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