A long-awaited collective agreement for workers in the local government sector was finally reached on Thursday.
One by one, the unions and employers’ groups involved in the process approved a deal struck on Wednesday.
Negotiations have been held by videoconference since the coronavirus pandemic hit Finland – a crisis where many of the frontline workers have been municipal employees working without a contract since last month.
Under the deal, people working for cities and other local authorities will get modest wage increases, broadly in line with those in other sectors. And as in most other recent collective agreements, the deal abolishes the so-called kiky hours, several days' worth of unpaid work added to most contracts as part of a competitiveness pact. It was pushed through in 2016 by the previous centre-right government.
Gender wage gap to be tackled by 2022
The first to approve the agreement were the two unions representing most of Finland’s nurses, the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland (Tehy) and The Finnish Union of Practical Nurses (SuPer).
They had long sought wage increases and measures to narrow the gender wage gap in the female-dominated municipal sector. That issue was still left open, but is to be hammered out by a working committee set up for the purpose. It has been mandated to resolve the thorny issue by the end of February 2022.
The two unions had also pushed for a bonus for nurses battling the Covid-19 pandemic, but that was left out of this agreement because financially-strapped local authorities simply do not have money to pay for it. Instead, Tehy and SuPer are calling on the government to fund the bonus.
Contract back-dated to April
The labour market director of the KT Local Government Employers’ association, Markku Jalonen, expressed relief that a deal had finally be reached to bring industrial peace to the sector.
"I believe that the solution that has now been achieved will bring much-needed stability and predictability to the municipal sector during this crisis,” Jalonen said in a statement.
The wage increases will follow the same pattern of other recent collective agreements.
They include an across-the-board increase of 1.22 percent as of 1 August this year. That will be followed by a one-percent hike next April, with some workers also eligible for an additional 0.8 percent raise at that point.
The 23-month collective agreement is back-dated to take effect retroactively as of 1 April, 2020.