Veli-Matti Mattila, the chairman of the board at the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), has touched off a flurry of irate responses from trade unions by estimating that the wages of employees remain 10–15 per cent too high in Finland.
Finland, he believes, must continue to exercise wage moderation and take action to reduce unit labour costs if it is to catch up with its key rivals, such as Germany and Sweden.
The competitiveness pact was a step in the right direction, but it alone will not suffice to navigate the country back on the right course, Mattila stated in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday.
The competitiveness pact is a tripartite labour market agreement that lays out measures to reduce unit labour costs – such as waiving wage hikes, increasing annual working time and re-distributing social security contributions between employers and employees – and covers more than 90 per cent of employees in Finland.
Mattila himself earned roughly 1.66 million euros in 2015, 70 times more than the average income recipient in the country, according to Helsingin Sanomat.
Jarkko Eloranta, the chairperson of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), warned that calls for continuing wage moderation will only complicate the upcoming round of sector-specific collective bargaining talks.
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“The labour market climate is becoming tenser, and moderation has been thrown to the winds,” he tweeted on Sunday.
Katarina Murto, the head of lobbying at the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees (STTK), similarly estimated that such demands will undermine the attempts to promote local bargaining.
Jorma Malinen, the chairperson of Trade Union Pro, suggested that trade unions may have made a mistake by consenting to wage moderation, as it seems to have resulted in employer organisations becoming ever greedier.
Mattila’s statements also provoked a response from several members of the opposition on Sunday.
Maarit Feldt-Ranta, a deputy chairperson of the Social Democratic Party, reminded that the welfare state was originally founded on a spirit of consensus and co-operation.
“Everyone understands how bad-off wage earners would be, if everyone had to negotiate their terms and conditions of employment independently. The 100-year-old Finland must not regress to a state where daily work is auctioned at the gates of ports and factories to those who consent to the worst terms,” she stressed.
Anna-Maja Henriksson, the chairperson of the Swedish People’s Party, drew attention to the importance of promoting local bargaining, removing labour market testing for foreign employees and unnecessary red tape, overhauling the family leave system and investing in occupational well-being in reforming the labour market.
“Demands for lower wages seem a simplified approach that does not promote the spirit of co-operation that is required to improve the country’s employment situation,” said Henriksson.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi