The new unfair unemployment security legislation meets strong opposition from trade unions

The new legislation to cut unemployment security has been met with broad and strenuous opposition from trade unions. In February the unions will organise a major demonstration against the law in Helsinki.
25.01.2018 16:15 Pauli Vento
#Äänityöttömälle–the voice of the unemployed—is the slogan of the demonstration in February

From the beginning of the year 2018 unemployed people must report their progress in job-seeking to the unemployment fund or the Social Insurance Institution (Kela) quarterly. The unemployment fund or Kela can then consider whether they have been active enough in finding employment or not.

Should they decide someone has not done enough to seek out employment, the benefit will be cut by 4.65 percent for the next three months. The cut is approximately one day's benefit per month.

There will be no cut if an unemployed job-seeker has, during any three month period of unemployment, managed to find employment for at least 18 hours, earn a minimum of 241 euro as an entrepreneur or participate for five days in certain services offered by the employment offices.

These services include various type of training and similar measures to promote employment prospects.

The Government has continually turned a deaf ear to all criticism. It calls the new legislation the active model and says that it encourages the unemployed to be more ‘active’ in seeking work.

Punishing and humiliating

Jarkko Eloranta

Trade unions have a completely different understanding of what is happening here and what is at stake. Jarkko Eloranta, President of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK says the new legislation is designed to humiliate unemployed people.

He cannot fathom why the Government wants to add to the bureaucracy jobseekers already face.

Trade unions point out that the new model is very unfair. In many parts of the country it is not easy to find a temporary job or work as an entrepreneur. Possibilities for gig jobs depend a lot on the profession, too.

The services offered by the state employment offices also vary. Even though these offices will find themselves burdened by much more work thanks to the new legislation, their resources are not growing accordingly.

The Government says their model is influenced by Danish legislation. There are some similarities, but also major differences. SAK calculated last year that in Denmark one employment office staff member has the responsibility to help 12 job-seekers, in Finland her or his colleague has 166 job-seekers to serve.

Breaking the Competitiveness Pact of 2016

In reality the new model is simply another cut in unemployment security, the unions stress. It is against the trilateral national Competitiveness Pact from 2016.

"By drafting the active model the Government breached the pact", SAK President Jarkko Eloranta says. "On top of that the Government is quietly preparing a new amendment that would focus separately on the job seeking an unemployed is doing himself."

This would create a threat of losing a bigger share of unemployment benefit and increase the bureaucratic burden, he adds.

In January SAK presented its own model to encourage the unemployed on seeking a job. It is based on support and encouragement, not penalisation, which is central to the Government model.

SAK and several unions are organising a major demonstration against the law in Helsinki on February 2.

Heikki Jokinen / freelancer