Finland: employers move to undermine sectoral bargaining in tech sector

Tuesday 6 April 2021

The Finnish employers’ association Technology Industries announced a major change in its collective bargaining activities. This unilateral decision has far-reaching implications in the sectoral collective bargaining system, which has delivered a stable and internationally competitive labour market for decades.

From now on, the association’s member companies, which include Nokia, Google, Accenture, Fujitsu and Microsoft, can either opt-in to join the central negotiations conducted by the association or remain outside the negotiating organisation and negotiate a collective agreement individually.

“We know that sectoral collective bargaining is good for economic resilience and ensures shared prosperity. Now – just when we have been hit by the pandemic which has shocked our economies and when income inequality is creeping in Finland – is especially not the time for employers to take an axe to this vital space for consensus-building. This highly irresponsible move by the employers is a major puncture to a system that has put Finnish tech on the map,” said Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa.

The sectoral collective bargaining system guarantees that there is a level playing field regarding competition between companies and that the companies don’t compete with below-par wages or undermining legislation, rather with innovations, investing in the skills and competitivity of their staff and competitive benefits. The sectoral collective agreements negotiated by Technology Industries and its counterparts such as Teollisuusliitto, Trade Union Pro and the Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff cover hundreds of thousands of employees.

The announcement of Technology Industries, and the last year’s similar announcement of Finnish Forest Industries shows a worrying trend of undermining decades of equal negotiations between employers and workers and is to be seen as a pre-meditated full assault against the national sectoral collective bargaining system and an attempt to force workers into a weaker negotiating position. This goes against OECD advice which recognises that “collective bargaining matters for some of the policy objectives that policy makers and citizens care most about: employment, wages, inequality and productivity.”

“Thanks to strong collective bargaining, income inequality in Finland is relatively small compared to other countries. However, it is growing and this attack is a core part of the drive of destabilising forces in Finland and could have a devastating ripple effect across Europe. It’s time to stop this abuse and stand up for collective bargaining,” said Oliver Roethig.

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