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Finance Minister Orpo rebuffs talk of wage increases

Finland's centre-right National Coalition Party leader Petteri Orpo has put the kibosh on optimistic talk of salary hikes as the economy picks up speed. The Finance Minister says workers should wait for the positive situation to stabilize before they ask for better compensation.

Petteri Orpo.
Petteri Orpo Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

Economists, politicians and business leaders have declared in unison this spring that the sluggish Finnish economy is finally showing signs of recovery. News of improved growth prospects has encouraged some to propose wage increases, as collective bargaining rounds that determine salaries for many business sectors are approaching in the autumn.

Finance Minister Petteri Orpo told the Jyväskylä-based newspaper Keskisuomalainen on Friday that it's too soon to talk about raising wages.

"They (increases) should stay closer to zero than anything else. A moderate solution would support employment prospects and economic growth, and ensure that as many people as possible find work", the paper reports Orpo as saying.

He says a better time for wage increases would be once the economic growth has stabilized.

"Public finances are five billion euros in debt this year, and unemployment is still high. It's not quite the time to start divvying out the small economic gains we have made as wage increases quite yet," he said.

New Industrial Union responds

Meanwhile three unions representing metalworkers, paper industry employees and other industry professionals officially merged into a new labour representative group on Thursday in Helsinki. The chair of the new aptly-titled Industrial Union, Riku Aalto, appeared on Yle's Aamu-TV programme on Friday morning, and responded to Orpo's comments. He says commentators always start in when the tripartite talks come around again.

"As we embark on the negotiations, we will try to reach collective labour agreements that will enhance the purchasing power of our members," he said.

The new Industrial Union boasts 226,000 members, which makes it the second-largest union under the umbrella of the country's top union confederation SAK, after the white-collar union PAM. Aalto was elected to lead the new union, after having successfully skippered the Metalworking Union since 2008.

Aalto says Finland's pay raises are justified by the fact that companies are doing well and employment is on the rise.

"We would also take changes in production into account as part of our wage increase objectives. There are many elements involved in assessing how much leeway there is. Now that the emphasis has turned to a more union-specific form of negotiation, we will analyse the sectors we represent as well as their economic situation and base our targets on that."

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