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Competitiveness pact wrangling goes down to the wire

The Service Union United PAM, which represents 230,000 workers, says it will approve the government's so-called competitiveness pact – but only if the Metalworkers Union does the same.

Ann Selin
Ann Selin, chair of the Service Union United PAM, spoke to reporters on June 3. Image: Petteri Paalasmaa / AOP

Friday has been set as the final deadline for unions and employers to agree to the government's so-called competitiveness agreement.

The pact has been the central plank in the platform of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's government, which took office a year ago. Negotiations began on it even before the cabinet was sworn in.

Still on the fence

As of midday, two major unions remained undecided: the Service Union United PAM and the Metalworkers' Union. They have some 350,000 members between them. Sipilä has said that both unions must sign on in order to make the agreement sufficiently comprehensive.

In the early afternoon, PAM said it will sign on to the deal – but only if the metalworkers do the same.

The head of the main labour federation, SAK chair Lauri Lyly, said that he doubts the government will deliver its promised tax relief, because a large-enough percentage of the unions won't agree to the cost-cutting deal.

Riku Aalto, chair of the Metalworkers Union, says negotiations will continue until 3.10 pm.

Tough, drawn-out decision

The board of the predominantly-female PAM met to consider the deal on Friday. It voted 12-4 to join – as long as the metal union is on board.

PAM chair Ann Selin says that this has been a tough, drawn-out decision. She expressed the hope that the pact would support the beginnings of economic recovery and reverse the increase in unemployment. She said these were part of the reason why PAM is ready to approve the deal, even though it will result in a weakening of contract conditions.

"If the metal union does not join in, then this will probably collapse," she said at a press conference.

The Metalworkers are the biggest industrial union with more than 140,000 members, while PAM boasts some 230,000 members. About 80 percent are women.

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