Chairperson Riku Aalto and deputy chairperson Turja Lehtonen of the Industrial Union spoke to reporters in Helsinki on Sunday, 5 February 2023. The trade union’s board had moments earlier approved new collective bargaining agreements for the chemical and technology industries, guaranteeing employees annual pay rises of 2–3.5 per cent for 2023 and 2024. (Seppo Samuli – Str / Lehtikuva)


THE BOARD of the Industrial Union on Sunday showed a green light to new two-year collective bargaining agreements in the technology and parts of the chemical industry.

With the agreements also receiving the approval of both Technology Industry Employers and the Chemical Industry Federation of Finland, the trade union has called off a series of strikes that were scheduled to start this week and later this month.

The technology industry could yet face strikes from Trade Union Pro and the Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff (YTN).

Helsington Sanomat on Sunday wrote that the agreement guarantees employees in the technology industry a general pay rise of 3.5 per cent for this year and a non-recurring bonus of 400 euros payable in March. Pay rises in the industry will continue next year with a general rise of two per cent and a company or workplace-specific one of half a per cent.

Employees in the chemical industry are guaranteed a general increase of 2.2 per cent and a non-recurring bonus of 800 euros, payable in two tranches of 400 euros, in 2023. Their wages will continue to creep up next year in accordance with a general rise of 3.3 per cent and a company or workplace-specific one of 0.2 per cent.

The Industrial Union has estimated that the cost effects of both agreement add up to seven per cent over the two-year agreement.

The agreements represent an improvement in terms of both the general pay rises and the non-recurring bonuses from the settlement proposal the union rejected last week, according to chairperson Riku Aalto.

“This agreement naturally won’t be enough to catch up with inflation. But it was important that the rises go to everyone,” he commented to Helsingin Sanomat.

Jarkko Ruohoniemi, the CEO of Technology Industry Employers, reminded the newspaper that pay rises in the industry will be primarily agreed on locally, with the increases announced yesterday serving as a backstop that will enter into effect unless companies find alternative solutions by mid-March. He expressed his satisfaction with the two-year term of the agreement and disappointment with the lack of employer allocation for the general rise.

“A general rise makes it impossible to target the increases to the right places [at the workplace],” he told.

He also warned in a press release that the high pay rises carry a “significant risk” of undermining the competitiveness of the technology industry in what is an operating environment with an exceptional degree of uncertainty.

“We can manage with the settlement as long as the economic foundation does not crumble in an unexpected way,” he said.

Minna Etu-Seppälä, the CEO of the Chemical Industry Federation of Finland, described the agreement as “tolerable” in the prevalent circumstance. The interest group offered the pay rises in a back-loaded fashion due to feedback received from companies that are struggling to cope with rising energy and raw material prices, for example.

“[The price increases] are being felt in small and medium companies right now. We wanted a solution that doesn’t mean workplaces have to close their doors,” she said to the newspaper.

With collective bargaining agreements in the chemical and technology industries generally regarded as a template for other industries, the agreements are expected to nudge forward stalled negotiations also in other industries. The municipal sector, for example, has made its pay rises conditional on those in the technology industry, chemical industry and transport industry.

An agreement has yet been found in the transport industry. The Finnish Transport Workers’ Union (AKT) has enforced an overtime ban and announced a strike that is scheduled to start in mid-February.

Efforts to settle the dispute in the commerce sector are set to continue later today, with a strike affecting supermarkets in large cities looming on Thursday. Annika Rönni-Sällinen, the chairperson at Service Union United (PAM), on Friday declined to speculate on whether the breakthrough in the chemical and technology industries could prompt one also in the commerce sector.

“This is difficult to gauge, and I’d rather not comment on that at this moment. We’ll learn more next week, when the conciliation continues on Monday,” she said to Helsingin Sanomat.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT