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Unions oppose cuts to job alternation leave compensation

Helsinki (28.09.2011 - Juhani Artto) All three Finnish union confederations - Akava, SAK and STTK - oppose the government's plan to cut compensation to employees who opt for job alternation leave. The government intends to cut the alternation leave compensation by 10 to 20 per cent from its present level. Employees on job alternation leave are entitled to compensation of anything between 70 - 80 per cent of unemployment benefit.

The system of job alternation leave was established in 1996 and made permanent a few years ago.

To date thousands of employees have availed of the scheme of job alternation leave annually. Last year over 17,000 took the opportunity. The scheme was most popular among employees, organized in the STTK unions. In the year 2010 about 1.3 per cent of their rank and file members were on job alternation leave.

The corresponding figure for employees, organized in unions affiliated in Akava, was 0.9 per cent and for rank and file members of SAK unions 0.7 per cent. In Akava's largest union, the Trade Union of Education, 2.1 per cent of the rank and file members took job alternation leave in 2010.

The confederations strenuously insist that the planned cuts run counter to the generally approved goal of extending working careers, a goal emphasized in the government programme. The union confederations wish to make clear that job alternation leave has proved to be an effective way of improving well-being at work.

And, the scheme has also other useful qualities. It has created relevant and decent job opportunities for a large number of unemployed people. This is due to the system's requirement: The employer must hire an unemployed jobseeker to replace the employee on job alternation leave.

The confederations are afraid that the planned cuts to compensation would make it difficult, especially for employees in low-pay jobs, to make use of the system of job alternation leave.

The proposal made by the government would mean a saving in government expenditure of approximately EUR7.5 million.

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