HELSINKI – Labour market upheaval brings minimum wage to table

The mighty Finnish Forest Industries Federation (FFIF) announced on Thursday (1 October) that once the current contracts expire by the end of 2021, the FFIF will not negotiate with national unions.

Instead, the bargaining on wages, working conditions and shifts will happen one floor down, directly between individual companies and their workforce, making sure collective bargaining systems become a thing of the past.

Collective bargaining has been a cornerstone of the country’s labour market and has been enshrined in law as a concept since 1946.

Even though the system hasn’t always had the desired effects on wages and other issues, the method as such has not been questioned until now.

Now, there will be a new playing field for some 140,000 people and 150 factories. Forest industry still remains in charge of 20% of Finland’s exports.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) heard the news while attending an EU Summit in Brussels and voiced her disappointment, saying she had hoped for a common spirit when the country is in crisis. “The FFIF’s announcement today tells quite a different kind of message,” she said.

Predictably, labour unions are not buying the employers’ talk of a new dialogue and culture that would enhance the industry’s competitive edge. However, they have already been hinting towards industrial actions and other countermeasures.

The new situation has also triggered a discussion on minimum wage, however.

Surprisingly, the parties speaking out in favour of a minimum wage are Left Alliance and Finnish Entrepreneurs, two diametrically opposed parties. While one party is seeking security and protection, the other is looking for greater clarity and predictability.

(Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)

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