The Vaalistaja (Electoral Enlightener) campaign will highlight election debate topics that are important to workers. These include issues of income and purchasing power, the quality and safety of work life, public services and income transfers.
Typically, only about half of Finland’s working population exercise the right to vote in parliamentary elections. The Vaalistaja campaign will particularly target employees under 35 years of age. It will also encourage union members to discuss the parliamentary elections at workplaces, and provide materials to help them decide how they vote.
The themes and proposals of the campaign are based on wide-ranging surveys commissioned by SAK from the Kantar Public research organisation concerning the attitudes and priorities of working people on social issues. The surveys were conducted over several periods, with the same topics examined in varying formulations.
“This gave us an optimally comprehensive and precise impression of attitudes. The unions were keen to ensure that the campaign reflected the wishes of workers and focused on the issues that are important to them. This is what will happen,” explains SAK Vice President Katja Syvärinen.
“For example, working people are strongly opposed to the idea of staggering unemployment benefit and halving its duration,” Syvärinen stresses.
The campaign has included a survey of parliamentary political parties concerning their positions on themes that are important to working people. One of the questions concerned restoring the liability of employers for the 2.05 per cent contributions that were transferred to the liability of employees as of 2017 under the Competitiveness Pact. SAK and several trade unions from various national confederations proposed this return to the prior arrangements last year as a solution to the collapse in purchasing power caused by higher inflation.
“We were pleasantly surprised by the finding that most political parties are favourably disposed to this proposal,” observes SAK President Jarkko Eloranta.
The findings indicated that the Social Democratic, Finns, Green and Left Alliance parties were prepared to restore the liability of employers for Competitiveness Pact payments as a counter-cyclical policy measure.
“Most of the current Parliament supports the proposal, which gives us some confidence that it can be implemented. To support this decision, our economist has formulated a new estimate of how much the Competitiveness Pact has already cost, and how much it will cost over an entire working career. This is something to discuss,” Eloranta stresses.
SAK has opened an account to illustrate the consequences of the Competitiveness Pact for employees. This begins with the earnings lost as of February 2023 due to cuts in holiday bonus, prolonged working time and the transfer of liability for employer contributions.
The starting balance of the account is EUR 11,384,211,927.80, with an underlying algorithm that adds EUR 3,818 for every minute. The balance increases by an average of two billion euros annually. The current balance can be viewed at kikykello.fi (website in Finnish only).
SAK economist Tatu Knuutila says that the transfer of Competitiveness Pact payments translates into a loss that at least amounts to tens of thousands of euros over the entire career of a full-time employee. This means lost career earnings of about EUR 36,000 at the median income of members of SAK-affiliated trade unions, and EUR 42,000 at the median income of all employees in Finland.
At the average salary paid in Finland, the Competitiveness Pact means a loss of up to 48,000 euros over an entire working career. “The greatest impacts of the Pact have been seen in the earnings of public sector employees, who were most widely affected by the cuts,” Knuutila says.
Tatu Knuutila compares restoring liability for Competitiveness Pact payments to employers with a previous public proposal to cut EUR 1 billion from income tax across the board.
“The information service of Parliament has calculated the impact of an income tax cut at approximately 20 euros on the monthly income of an employee earning a salary of EUR 3,000. By contrast, the impact of transferring Competitiveness Pact payments would be about three times this figure, at 60 euros per month,” Knuutila points out.
SAK President Jarkko Eloranta notes that there is no longer any justification for permanently reducing the livelihoods of employees: Finland’s cost competitiveness is strong, and the employment rate continues to rise. At the same time, consumer purchasing power has fallen over the last year to the level of the recession years of the last decade.
“Business results are good, the order books of industry are full, and dividends are being paid at a record pace. The settlements made so far in the labour market have been moderate compared to inflation and to settlements reached in competing national economies. We still have scope and justification for correcting purchasing power,” Eloranta says.
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