After several months of negotiations the new collective agreement for the technology industry was accepted on Saturday 4 January. It will bring a 3.3 per cent pay increase and the agreement is for 25 months.
The agreement covers some 93,000 employees and is considered important in paving the way for other collective agreements. Negotiations in almost all other sectors have been halted as the parties involved have been waiting to see what the pay rise in the export industry would be.
Riku Aalto, President of the Industrial Union views the disappearance of the 24 unpaid annual extra working hours as being the most important element in the new agreement. This punitive measure was agreed in 2016 under heavy pressure from the right-wing Government of PM Sipilä.
Aalto says that the pay rise agreed is a reasonable compromise. It will guarantee a better purchasing power for union members but does not endanger the competitiveness of Finnish industry, he says.
The Union Board voted for the agreement, 22 in favour and 5 against. Those opposing saw the pay rise as not substantial enough.
Over the first year the pay rise is 1.3 per cent. The union shop steward can make a company level agreement on how and when this is distributed to employees, but should unanimity not be reached, then the pay rise will be 1.3 per cent for everyone.
The same applies to the second year giving a 1.4 per cent pay rise. The remaining 0.6 per cent pay rise in February 2021, is being left up to the employer to decide on how to distribute it – but only in accordance with the guidelines agreed by the negotiation parties.
There are some changes in the text part of the agreement, too. In the future rental labour is also taken into account when it is estimated how much the shop steward needs to be free of her or his job to take care of employee matters.
The possibilities to support training at work will be improved by appointing those who are in charge of training. In the case of a sick child, the employee can stay home for up to three days with the child without visiting a doctor – the same as already applies when the employee is sick himself.
The parties also agreed to start a trial period regarding working time. It makes it possible for the shop steward to agree on an extended working time of up to 170 hours in a year, excluding the night shifts. It is up to every employee whether they want to do extra hours, which are paid normally.
This trial makes it possible for a company to be more flexible with for example a big order. And those employees who are in need of extra work and income can get more work. A similar trial was done ten years ago, but this opportunity was not availed of very much.
Now collective bargaining in other sectors can start in earnest. As the employers have indicated that no one will be getting a higher pay rise than in the technology industry, negotiations have been little more than shadow boxing so far.
Another major issue is what will happen to the 24 unpaid annual extra working hours in other agreements. Employers indicate that the technology industry was an exception and will not lead the way for other sectors in this respect. Trade unions for their part are adamant that the time for unpaid work is over.
Even the nature of these unpaid hours constitutes a major disagreement between the parties. Employers calculate that should these disappear they will need real compensation in the form of smaller pay increases.
The trade unions point out that these unpaid hours did not cost a penny to the employers. Dropping these thus provides no grounds for a separate compensation.
Heikki Jokinen / Freelancer