To raise or not to
Labour market organizations divided over minimum retirement age
Helsinki (20.02.2012 - Juhani Artto) The daily Helsingin Sanomat reported on
February 11 that the board of the union confederation SAK has mandated its
President Lauri Lyly to negotiate on the gradual raising of the minimum
retirement age, if the average retirement age does not rise as planned.
The labour market organizations and the government have set as their common
goal that the average retirement age should be raised to 62.4 years by 2025.
In 2011, the
figure rose by 0.1 percentage points to 60.5.
The present pension system allows wage and salary earners, as well as the
self-employed, to choose when to retire between 63 and 68 years of age. The
average retirement age is much lower than 63 years mainly due to the large
number of people who become disability pensioners annually.
The news of SAK's new flexibility on this matter came as a surprise to many
within and outside of the trade union movement. The reactions of the
employers were positive but comments coming from individual unions clearly
indicated hostility to the
idea of raising the minimum retirement age.
The other two union confederations STTK and Akava were quick to confirm that
they still see no reasons to raise the minimum retirement age. The results
of the previous pension system reform are good and the average retirement
age has risen even more rapidly than expected, they emphasized.
Also many of SAK's affiliated unions announced that their stand on the
retirement age has not changed from the 63 years of age. Riku Aalto, the
President of the Metalworkers' Union, "floored" the plans to raise the
minimum age in the daily Demari. TEAM, the trade union of workers in many
industrial sectors, concluded that there is no need to raise the minimum age
and stressed that SAK's negative stance on the minimum retirement age has
So, what lies behind the news of SAK sudden conversion, as it were - its
willingness to be more flexible in relation to this contentious issue?
The logic is that all other means other than raising the minimum
retirement age must be tried first. If this does not lead - in the coming
- to the common goal then SAK is ready to consider its position on the
retirement age. This is how SAK's President Lyly explained last week SAK's
Among these other means are raising the employment rate, making work places
more attractive to aging employees and bringing to an end
discrimination against older employees in the labour market. Last week union
organisations also urged that the reasons for the large number
of disability retirements annually be tackled
in their comments on the retirement age dispute.
Negotiations between labour market organizations on future pension
reform have remained dead-locked for a long time. Lasse Laatunen, director
affairs at the employers' EK, said on February 11 that SAK's new approach
opens up possibilities for negotiations to move forward.
Lyly, in turn, said that he expects EK to alleviate its stand on the pension
contributions that should be raised in the coming years. The contributions
are paid partly by employers, partly by employees. Experts calculate that
new decisions to raise the level of these contributions must be made for the
period that begins in 2015.