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JUHANI ARTTO
HOMEPAGE 2013

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TRADE UNION NEWS
FROM FINLAND 1997-2013

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MAAILMALTA 1999-2013

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1997-2013

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Employer confederation EK elects new leaders
and adopts a hard line


Helsinki (04.01.2013 - Heikki Jokinen) Relations between trade unions and the employers' confederation are exceptionally tense at the moment in Finland. This friction between the two parties had already become evident in September. Then the board of the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK did not accept an agreement which its representatives had already negotiated with trade union confederations concerning legislation to guarantee employees three days professional education a year.

Within the EK clear opposition against the Director General of EK Mikko Pukkinen had grown towards the end of 2012. He was seen as being too soft and was blamed for both the rejected education agreement and the national level salary framework agreement 2011-2013. Many employers see the framework agreement as a wrong move - they prefer to decide salaries at union or preferably at company level.

A crackdown followed: in November last year Mikko Pukkinen was forced out and the new Director General of EK Jyri Häkämies was elected. Before that Häkämies held the post of Minister of Economic Affairs and served as an MP representing the conservative Coalition party. From the beginning of this year EK also got a new chairperson, Ilpo Kokkila. He is currently the chairman of the board of SRV, a major construction company active in Finland, the Baltic countries and Russia.

Kokkila was not shy about putting forward the employers demands. "Companies in general have no means to raise salaries, and at best only certain individual companies can meet pay rises, if a rise in productivity allows for it", Kokkila informed the EK's Prima magazine. In the public sector salaries should be frozen outright, he added. In another connection he demanded actual cuts in salaries.

Newly appointed Director General Jyri Häkämies proposed that weekly working hours be increased by two hours per week. The other recent demands from EK follow the same line: no national framework agreements on salaries, agreements shall be made only at union and company level. Work careers should be extended by raising the age of retirement and cutting holidays. Unsurprisingly, he also demanded that company taxes should be lowered.

Though many of the EK demands are old, the rhetoric is new. The tone is harsher and the oral gunfire has begun exceptionally early prior to the next round of negotiations to bring about collective agreements.

Trade union organizations have turned down the proposals to freeze wages and salaries and extend weekly working hours. The three trade union confederations SAK, STTK and Akava are very aware that the current tense situation makes broad co-operation imperative. In their joint meeting just before Christmas they decided to work together to prepare and set out their goals for the next bargaining round.

In their statement the confederations underlined that in the existing economic situation it is extremely important that instead of making citizens feel guilty EK would return to a constructive discussion on the future of labour market.