Several trade unions ready to take measures if Government goes ahead with plan to ease individual dismissals

A number of trade unions are demanding that the Finnish Government withdraw the planned amendment to the Employment Contracts Act. It is aimed at easing the criteria for individual dismissal in businesses employing 20 people or less.
04.09.2018 14:52
Photo: Patrik Lindström

The Board of SAK, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions concluded at its meeting on Monday 3rd September that all SAK unions are prepared to take measures against the planned amendment. The unions will decide individually what their measures will be.

However, the protests are not limited only to SAK member unions. Some unions from the other two Finnish trade union confederations, STTK and Akava, have already announced they are ready to act, too.

The Executive Committee of the Finnish Confederation of Professionals STTK met also on Monday 3rd September. The STTK President Antti Palola said that the Confederation opposes the amendment but that its member unions will decide individually whether they begin measures.

So far the unions committed to resist the changes have not defined what these measures would be, but it could mean industrial action such as a ban on overtime and shift swap or limited and targeted strikes.

The SAK-affiliated Industrial Union decided on "extensive measures" against the weakening of employment security. The Union Board was unanimous that right now there is no other alternative but to bring pressure to bear when faced with the Finnish Government plans.

The Board of the STTK-affiliated Tehy, the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland gave authorisation to President Millariikka Rytkönen to announce an overtime and shift swap ban or other forms of industrial action, if needed.

"We require that all employees are treated equally regardless of the size of the company", Rytkönen says.

Question of advocacy, not politics

"The Government has already extended the duration of employees' trial period, reduced the companies' re-employment obligation of former employees and increased fixed-time employment possibilities for the long-term unemployed. The weakening of protection against dismissal places the employees in companies of different sizes in an unequal situation and there is no evidence that this weakening will have an effect on reducing unemployment", lists Ann Selin, President of the SAK-affiliated Service Union United PAM.

The effect on employment could in fact be negative, says Päivi Niemi-Laine, President of the SAK-affiliated JHL, the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors. "The legislation would set an artificial limit after which employers do not think it is worth employing new people as the protection against dismissal is improving."

Both PAM and JHL say they are ready to take action in order to stop the new legislation.

Trade Union Pro from STTK also announced it is ready to act. The details will be decided soon by the Union Central Strike Committee.

"For Pro this is a question of advocacy, not politics", says Jorma Malinen, the President of Pro. "The Government proposal would effect a major part of our members so it is natural we will do all we can."

The Akava-affiliated OAJ, the Trade Union of Education has also decided on measures against the proposed legislation to weaken employment security.

Olli Luukkainen, President of OAJ stress that the amended legislation would be a major change that would effect a big number of companies in the private sector and hundreds of employees in the educational sector.

"Dismissal has not been too difficult in Finland so far", he says and adds that whether an employer likes someones face or not can not be grounds for dismissal. "The Government proposal would now make that possible."

The issue has obviously become a matter of face saving principle for the Government. PM Juha Sipilä says they will go ahead with the legislation despite widespread skepticism about the positive impact the amendment will have and the broad public opposition to it.

Heikki Jokinen / Freelancer