Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) hosted the leaders of the main labour market groups for a discussion at his official residence, Kesäranta, amid the tightening labour market situation. After the one-hour meeting on Wednesday, the premier assured reporters that the government intends to genuinely consult labour market organisations regarding planned reforms.
"As we know, there are conflicts. Above all, I wanted to hear from labour market organisations and especially from the wage earners about their mood and get feedback on how the process is going," he said.
According to Orpo, the most important thing is to keep open discussion channels between the government and the labour market groups.
"I want to be in contact with the labour market organisations myself, so that we can continue to move things forward with the best possible understanding, so that Finnish society does not suffer unreasonable losses from possible countermeasures and expressions of opinion," said Orpo.
He emphasised that the government programme is based on the need to raise Finland's employment rate.
This week the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) launched a three-week campaign of walkouts in response to the government's planned reforms, which it says would erode worker protections.
“Tension and mistrust in the air”
Attending the meeting were union leaders Jarkko Eloranta of the main blue-collar labour federation SAK, Antti Palola of the white-collar STTK, Maria Löfgren of the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff (Akava) as well as Jyri Häkämies of the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) and Markku Jalonen of the Local Government and County Employers (KT).
The employees' side has accused the government of unwillingness to negotiate and moving toward scrapping the traditional tripartite negotiations involving unions, businesses and the state.
According to Eloranta, the working groups that have been set up to discuss labour-market reforms do not offer a level playing field.
Akava's Löfgren said that the ball is now in the government's court.
"The keys remain in the prime minister's pocket. We need some kind of overall review of the situation in order to get across the issues that are important for wage earners," she said.
Jalonen of the public-sector employers group noted that there is a lot of tension and mistrust in the air. STTK's Palola, however, described the discussions as open and direct.
"The most important thing is to maintain an open discussion channel. But you’ll have to ask the prime minister how well we got our message across," he told reporters outside the official residence.