“The policy statements regarding working life in the Government Programme undermine the stability of the labour market, hold back job growth and economic growth and make it more difficult to cope at work. The culture of co-operation and bargaining, which we would have liked to strengthen, seems to have been forgotten by those who wrote the Government Programme. The new Government Programme will increasingly bring politics into all labour market negotiations”, says Maria Löfgren, President of Akava.
What the Government Programme proposes on local bargaining would affect the way in which minimum employment conditions will be defined in the future. At the moment, they are based on labour law and national collective agreements.
“We find it extremely regrettable that the changes to local bargaining and limitations to employees’ right to industrial action are being implemented without any counterbalancing elements such as a reform of the mediation system. Without balancing elements, the risks involved in the increased use of local bargaining are too great”, Löfgren underlines.
The Government Programme proposes very few steps to improve well-being at work.
“We suggested an extensive package of measures aimed to improve well-being at work and reduce psychosocial stress, but the programme contains virtually no concrete measures to this effect. We find this short-sighted and fear that we will face more disability and rising disability costs in the future. A reform of the Occupational Safety and Health Act would have been necessary”, Löfgren continues.
Cutting unemployment benefits by several hundred million euros is a harsh decision by the Government
“The income cuts affecting the unemployed are too drastic and will not solve the supply-demand mismatch in the labour market. The Government’s policy on combined unemployment insurance is in line with our long-term goals. We also welcome the reform that allows unemployment funds to offer employment services to their customers”, Löfgren says.
According to the Government Programme, the reform of the earnings-related pension scheme will be based on the joint objective of the labour market organisations.
“Decisions on earnings-related pensions must be based on the financial sustainability of the earnings-related pension system and its ability to provide pension cover. Using pensions policy as a tool for balancing public finances is unacceptable”, Löfgren notes.
Increases in student intake and investment in educational quality are required
“Some of the adjustment measures in the Government Programme are targeted at education, training and skills. We want to emphasise that education and training across the board must be catered to”, says Löfgren.
“The Government is committed to raising the level of education, which is essential to increase employment rates and to drive research, development and innovation and the green transition. However, the future remains partly unclear due to the Government Programme’s inability to sufficiently detail the scale or funding of the increases in training volumes. These increases must be fully funded to ensure the quality of education”, Löfgren continues.
More investment in RDI is essential
Akava notes with satisfaction that a decision was made during the government negotiations to continue to increase RDI investments towards 4% of the GDP. It is an ambitious but achievable target, and these investments will improve Finland’s international competitiveness. However, the Government Programme’s position on immigration may reduce Finland’s attraction in the eyes of international talent.
Reducing the taxation of labour is a step in the right direction, as it supports the objectives for improving employment and the conditions for economic growth. However, the scale of reductions is rather modest.
“Discontinuing the tax deductibility of trade union membership fees was on the agenda in the Government Programme negotiations. Together with our affiliates, we lobbied for continued tax deductibility. The union membership fee is a work-related expense, and discontinuing its deductibility would effectively have increased employees’ taxes”, Löfgren says.
Maria Löfgren, President of Akava, tel. +358 (0)40 568 2798