Unions view Finnish Government call for a confidence vote over dismissal legislation as political theatre

Juha Sipilä, Prime Minister of Finland, wants to undermine trade union movement resistance to the planned law allowing for easy dismissal in small companies by calling for a confidence vote in Parliament.
16.10.2018 13:06
PM Juha Sipilä after General Government Fiscal Plan meeting in April 2018. Photo: Lauri Heikkinen / Prime Minister's Office

Parliament will debate the prime ministerial communique on Tuesday 16 October and hold a vote of confidence in the Government the following day. As PM Sipilä leads a majority Government, he is quite sure to win the vote.

Some observers view this highly unusual stratagem to avoid real negotiations with the trade unions as mere political play-acting. PM Sipilä explained the reason for his action by saying that after the confidence vote the unions would be protesting against a democratically elected Parliament, not the Government.

However, the bill is still under preparation and Parliament will not know what exactly is actually in it when voting on Wednesday. PM Sipilä furnished Parliament with a one page declaration saying that the objective of making dismissals easier is to improve the employment situation.

The reasoning given for the new dismissal legislation is brief and very general: "It is seen that the regulations relating to employment security have been raising the threshold for employment especially in the small companies."

Unions continue to act while awaiting the bill 

The trade unions say the communique will not change the situation. To cease actions before the proposal is even available would be odd.

Some unions have already confirmed they will continue with their measures against the dismissal bill. The Industrial Union announced its earlier decisions on new measures still stand. A similar message comes from the Finnish Food Workers' Union SEL.

Jarkko Eloranta

Jarkko Eloranta, President of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK says Sipiläs "political manoeuvre" is very strange. "The Members of Parliament must accept an empty paper, which is very interesting", he said to Iltalehti newspaper.

Even though it is the unions that organise measures and not the trade union confederations, Eloranta believes these will not cease.

"The unions have already made decisions, about which they will elaborate on at a later date. We will proceed along these lines. I cannot predict in which sectors and how widespread these measures will be", he said.

Antti Palola, President of the Finnish Confederation of Professionals STTK repeated on Twitter that STTK calls on the Government to drop the bill and start negotiations for improving employment.

Sipilä’s surprising move to issue this communique to Parliament Palola calls a "continuation of the political theatre written by the Government earlier".

That the Prime Minister is now drafting legislation in a different way than is normal is entirely the Government’s own business, Palola said. 

There is still a possibility that the proposed bill will not pass the Constitutional Law Committee stage in Parliament whose task is to see whether the legislation is in keeping with the Finnish Constitution and international commitments.

Some law specialists suggest that the dismissal bill would fail the test against the Constitution and the international ILO Conventions Finland has ratified. This remains, however, an entirely open and moot question as of the moment.

Heikki Jokinen / Freelancer