A new collective agreement for the chemical basic industry and oil, gas and petrochemical products industry, and plastic and chemical product industry was agreed on 6 February. A strike was scheduled to begin only some days later.
The agreement is valid until the end of 2021 and will raise salaries by 3.3 per cent.
"The pay rise follows the general line in the export industry and the unpaid 24 hour extra annual working time will be deleted completely in the agreement", says Toni Laiho, Sector Director at the SAK-affiliated Industrial Union.
The question of the unpaid 24 annual extra working hours has been the most difficult one to overcome in this negotiation round. Extra unpaid hours was an extremely contentious issue at the time but eventually became part of almost all collective agreements in Finland in 2016 following heavy pressure from the then right-wing Government.
On the same day, 6 February, the STTK-affiliated Trade Union Pro accepted the new agreement for white-collar employees in the chemical industry and some other industrial sectors like the footwear, leather and rubber industry.
This agreement gives a 3.3 per cent pay rise up until the end of 2021 and waves goodbye to the unpaid 24 annual extra working hours.
The Industrial Union has also signed up to eight new collective agreements covering some 50,000 employees in rural industries and in the media and printing branch. In the rural industries agreement the 24 unpaid hours will disappear gradually.
Agreement required 54 negotiation meetings
After 54 negotiation meetings with the the employers the SAK-affiliated Paper Workers' Union agreed 10 February on a new collective agreement. This will end the lockout that began on the same day. The union strike that began on 27 January will end, too.
The agreement follows the general line regarding pay rise, 3.3 per cent until the end of 2021 and drops the unpaid 24 annual working hours. It offers new possibilities for more flexible working hours – but for which workers are to be compensated for, not for free.
The annual break of paper mills during the midsummer weekend – which is a major holiday in Finland – will be cut by 24 hours.
Trade Union Pro is still negotiating on a collective agreement for the paper industry clerical employees. The union had a two-week strike and on 10 February began the seven-day lockout.
There is now new hope that stalled collective bargaining in other branches would move forward as the general line regarding pay rises and the unpaid extra hours begins to take shape.
The employers’ hardline attitude towards dropping the 24 unpaid working hours seems to have transformed into a more pragmatic one, by trying to exchange these hours at the highest price possible. A good deal, as they got these hours for free in the first place.
Heikki Jokinen / Freelancer