Plans to scrap the failed activation model, invest more in education and employment services, focus on gender equality and a commitment to cooperate with labour market parties were warmly greeted by the unions.
One of the major positive issues is, moreover, a complete change in the government labour market policy. The outgoing PM Juha Sipilä government tried to dictate what unions must do, whereas the incoming PM Antti Rinne government favours cooperation and negotiation.
Jarkko Eloranta, President of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK, is very pleased that the new government is willing to invite labour market parties to negotiate on how to raise the employment rate, without issuing instructions on how this must be done.
”We must now look for alternatives to the policy of cuts and austerity and need to invest more in education and services”, Eloranta says.
The SAK Board was pleased that the incoming government was taking seriously the fragmentation of working life, like precarious work, zero-hour contracts and platform work.
”The changing character of work demands new kinds of regulation to guarantee the workers' basic right for a living wage”, the Board says.
Antti Palola, President of the Finnish Confederation of Professionals STTK, is pleasantly surprised that many of the goals in the planned programme echo what the STTK has been advocating, too. These include an active employment policy, a goal of a 75 per cent employment rate and possibilities for life-long learning.
He also welcomes the commitment to strengthening confidence in the labour market. ”We hope for a constructive and confidential dialogue between the Government and labour market parties”, Palola says.
Both SAK and STTK support the planned strong engagement with regard to gender equality. It includes equal pay, more transparency on salaries and measures against discrimination based on pregnancy. Both stress that any reform of parental leaves must support gender equality.
Sture Fjäder, President of Akava, the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff, sees it as positive that investments in research, development and innovation are set to grow.
However, the programme is not ambitious enough, Fjäder says, and calls for more money for innovations. The new investments are not enough to repair the cuts made and damage done under the previous Government.
Important gender equality
Millariikka Rytkönen, President of Tehy - the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals, is very glad that the new Government is willing to make Finland the top country of gender equality.
”Gender issues and improving the situation of women are visible in the whole programme”, she says and adds a wish that this will become a reality in the collective agreements, too. The incomes in the sectors where the workforce is primarily made up of women are lagging behind male-dominated jobs.
Ann Selin, former President of the Service Union United PAM, also says that the outgoing Government was bent on penalising especially sectors where the workforce is primarily made up of women and those who are in a weak position in the labour market.
”Improvements to many longstanding problems during the coming Government period feels good. Now we only need to put these into practice and restore confidence in a society based on contracts.”
Jorma Malinen, President of the Trade Union Pro, is carefully optimistic with regard to the incoming government agenda.
”The bricks are in order, but there is a lot of work to do to bring the plans to fruition”, he says and welcomes the willingness to strengthen the culture of agreements and trust.
This is only a starting point for the actual work, Malinen says. ”Ambitious goals have no meaning unless they can be turned into concrete measures.”
Päivi Niemi-Laine, President of the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL, says that many of the JHL goals are part of the planned programme.
Tripartite cooperation is making a comeback, public services are to be strengthened and the humiliating active model will be wound down, which are all part of the JHL’s wishlist.
Niemi-Laine welcomes the fact that the incoming government will improve the quality of many public services, like elderly care and children’s day care.
New government programme promises cooperation instead of confrontation in the labour market (Trade Union News from Finland 3.6.2019)
Inclusive and competent Finland – a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable society (Government Programme 3.6.2019)
Heikki Jokinen / freelancer