Now we have #SeriousGrounds to act: the first cuts affecting employees will take effect at the start of next year

You may have come across the #SeriousGrounds hashtag on Facebook. It stands for a campaign that brings SAK, the trade unions and their members together to highlight and resist unfair measures by the Orpo-Purra Government that would damage the interests of workers and the unemployed.
06.09.2023 18:12

The Government is seeking significant changes in labour law, and in the right to strike. Its programme also includes a wide range of social welfare reductions, including drastic cuts in earnings-related unemployment benefit and housing allowance. A huge raft of measures is already in preparation.

Many of these cuts and legal changes are scheduled to take effect next year, with the first already introduced at the start of 2024. This means that we must act swiftly. We cannot delay in lobbying the Government for a change of course.

Measures to undermine the status of employees and limit the right to strike will exclusively benefit employers, with no significant impact on the national economy.

Examples of Orpo-Purra Government objectives include limiting the rights and opportunities of employees to protest, withholding pay for the first day of illness, and reducing job security by making it easier to dismiss employees and hire them for only temporary employment. These changes will damage the interests of employees by increasing insecurity in the working world.

Cuts in social welfare are bad news not only for the unemployed, but also for those in low-paid jobs. The envisaged cuts are in no way marginal. The reduction in earnings-related unemployment benefit will cut some EUR 300 from the monthly benefit payable after two months of unemployment to a claimant who initially qualified for about EUR 1,500 based on earnings of EUR 2,500 while working. The Government is also abolishing the child supplements that were formerly payable to these claimants.

The overall impact of the Government Programme is highly unfair to employees. SAK and the trade unions have called for the Government to study the effects of its planned measures, examining such aspects as the combined impact of cuts on social welfare as a whole.

The Government has sought to justify these cuts in terms of improved competitiveness and austerity required by the growing national debt. Many economists have nevertheless pointed out that the planned measures will not lead to significant savings or new jobs. Finland is already competitive in relation to benchmark economies.

SAK and the trade unions exist to defend the interests of employees. We cannot stand by and do nothing as the burden of cuts and austerity falls solely on employees, the unemployed and low-paid workers.

See the list of Orpo-Purra Government cuts.

What is #SeriousGrounds?

#SeriousGrounds is a common banner and hashtag of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) and the trade union movement. It tracks the policy measures and cuts made by the Orpo-Purra Government against workers, the unemployed, and the most disadvantaged people in society.

The concept of “serious grounds” comes from the Orpo-Purra Government Programme, which proposes allowing employers to dismiss a worker on “relevant grounds” instead of the present “relevant and serious grounds”. The practical effect of this would be significantly weakened employee job security.

Coupled with other drastic proposals to undermine workers’ rights, this also gives the trade union movement serious grounds for taking a strong stand in defence of employees against government cuts.

Where and when will the Government make these cuts?

Most of the cuts and reductions in rights are already in preparation. The Orpo-Purra Government is seeking to implement them within a year.

The Government is planning many major changes in labour law, the right to strike and social welfare. The changes in labour law and the right to strike will exclusively benefit employers, and not their employees. The particular victims of social welfare cuts will be people on low incomes, part-time and casual employees, and the unemployed.

The cuts are listed on the SAK website.

Will the Government measures affect the Finnish economy?

The Government has tried to justify the cuts on economic grounds, but undermining the status of employees will have no significant impact on the Finnish economy. Instead these measures are motivated by certain general attitudes and values.

Cuts in unemployment benefit are supposed to save costs and boost employment, but many claimants face difficulties in entering the job market due to inappropriate skills, health problems, or a lack of full-time work in the industry for which they are skilled. The cuts will push these claimants into a wide variety of alternative benefit schemes, with a significant risk of falling into poverty.

What is the goal of the #SeriousGrounds campaign?

SAK and the trade unions are always on the side of the employee. The aim is to get the government to properly explain the impact of changes that damage the interests of employees and the unemployed, and to modify the proposals to make them more employee-friendly.

The Orpo-Purra Government has not considered the true effects of social welfare cuts on the livelihoods of people who suffer the consequences. The impact on employees will at least partly conflict with international treaties.

Organisations will have to apply collective pressure if the Government refuses to calculate and publish appropriate impact assessments.

What measures are SAK and the trade unions taking at the moment?

We have shared information and perspectives with the Government on the impacts of the proposed measures on employees, and we have called for these impacts to be taken into account. We are also informing our members about how harsh the Government Programme will be for employees and the unemployed.

The Government has turned a deaf ear to the point of view of employees and refused to compromise in relation to the tough objectives of its programme. We have accordingly begun preparing organisational action. This may be take the form of various collective anti-government protests by employees.

How can I get involved?

You can share materials from SAK and your own union through social media channels and within your own association or union branch. Discuss this matter with your colleagues and workmates. Share a list or leaflet explaining the Orpo-Purra Government cuts in the break room at work. One such list is available online on the SAK website.