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Tuesday's papers: Nurses' pay, ministerial machination and Finland's Olympic phone policy

Finland is not banning athletes from taking their personal phones to the Olympics.

Nurses get lower pay in Finland than in some neighbouring countries. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Helsingin Sanomat has analysis (siirryt toiseen palveluun) of county council election candidates' desire to raise nurses' pay. It's a question in many election compasses, ahead of Sunday's regional elections, and most politicians are of the opinion that nurses' pay should increase.

But it's still unlikely they'll get an outsized pay bump, and HS explains why. Right now there are pay talks ongoing for municipal and regional government employees, including healthcare workers, but employers' organisations are saying there is little money available to fund higher pay rises for nurses.

Perhaps surprisingly, trade unions are not too keen to see nurses get a better deal than other workers. With inflation running higher than it has for years, unions representing other municipal workers don't want to see cash that could go to their members diverted to a one-time boost for nurses.

Nurses unions disagree, of course, with Millariikka Rytkönen of Tehy telling HS that the money should be found. She draws the comparison with the 70 million euros government found for peat producers in last year's budget, suggesting there is a way if political will can be found.

Pay harmonisation is another issue brought up by employers. As care services are harmonised into 21 regional organisations, each employer has to ensure wages are consistent for its employees. In practice that means an increase in the total cost of salaries, as those on the lowest basic pay get a boost to match their higher-earning counterparts.

Rytkönen dismisses that argument, but it's likely the compromise may be a 3-6 year deal that does something to address nurses' relatively low pay in later years.

Those candidates running for election, though, will have little to do with it as Finland's myriad pay bargaining system ensures unions and employers set the agenda before the new county councils have even taken office.

**Finland votes for new county councils on 23 January. To find out more read our Really Simple Guide, and use the election compass to find a candidate right for you. **

Minister Kurvinen's Kuortane help

Finland's spending is on a tight leash at present, with new facilities hard to come by. Ilta-Sanomat covers a controversial decision made by Sports Minister Antti Kurvinen (Cen), who allocated funds for a new swimming centre in his home region against the advice of experts and the swimming association.

Kurvinen approved the move to build a new swimming centre in Kuortane, a town of 3,500 people some 350km away from Helsinki which hosts Finland's Olympic Training Centre.

The criteria for this particular pot of money are that the target should be a national training centre, but the swimming federation was satisfied with its existing national training centre in Helsinki and did not support funding for the Kuortane project.

Neither did the Olympic Committee, the National Sports Council or the senior civil servant at the ministry. Kurvinen decided otherwise, pushing four million euros' worth of funding towards South Ostrobothnia. Kurvinen himself is on the council in nearby Alavus and currently running for a seat on the new county council in South Ostrobothnia.

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Finland's phone policy

The Winter Olympics start next month in Beijing, and many countries around the world are wondering how to respond to China's digital surveillance.

The Chinese authorities are believed to keep a close eye on phones and internet activity, and that has led some Olympic teams including Britain and Holland to ask their athletes to leave phones behind when they travel, reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun) Iltalehti.

Finland is not doing the same, offering only guidance to those competing for Finland but not demanding they leave devices behind.

The Olympic Committee is to send that guidance out in the coming days, but is not providing any phones for sportspeople to use while in China.