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Metalworkers approve competitiveness pact, EK says 87% of labour on board

The Metalworkers’ Union reached a final decision Friday to support the government-proposed competitiveness agreement designed to reduce unit labour costs and improve Finland's competitiveness on the global market. As the last union to sign on to the deal, the pact now has the support of what some say is 87 percent of the workers in the country. Now that all systems appear to be go, Chair Riku Aalto said it is the Finland’s employers’ turn to deliver on their promises of increased investment and jobs.

Riku Aalto
Metalworkers’ Union Chair Riku Aalto Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

The Metalworkers’ Union of Finland approved the terms and conditions of the so-called competitiveness deal in a 32 -24 vote Friday.

The union was the last major labour group in the field to make up its mind, and served as a lynchpin for several other groups' participation.

After many failed attempts at brokering a cost-cutting deal, the centre-right coalition government recently promised to sweeten the deal and offered the negotiating parties half a billion euros in tax relief if 85 percent of the unions would get on board.

The EK confederation representing the employers' side of the table announced already last week that it would approve the deal only if the Metalworkers approved it, too. The three top labour union confederations in Finland, SAK, STTK and Akava, also presented the same ultimatum, so the pressure was on the 142,000-member organization - unwittingly charged with determining the pact’s fate.

Magic number

Upon hearing of the metalworkers’ decision, both SAK and EK calculated that their inclusion put the number of labourers that have signed off on the deal at over 85 percent, the required amount for the government-promised tax cuts. EK said it may even be as much as 87 percent.

Aalto describes his union council’s vote as a very tight one.

“Just a few people changing their minds would have turned things in the other direction,” he said.

He said discussion of the pact focused on the main backer of the bargain: the government. Criticism of the employers’ role in the process was absent, unusual for a union negotiating a collective agreement, he said.

Under pressure

He said the vote was definitely made harder by all the pressure that was put on the decision by the other organisations, and even the Finnish President.

He says now that the pact has been approved by the critical majority, the onus is on Finland’s employers to make good on the promises made during the negotiations.

“It’s time to get those investments up and runnning. We expect millions of euros in investment in Finland, and an increase in employment. We have to keep faith that these things will really happen. If they don’t, the credibility of pacts like this will certainly suffer,” Aalto said.

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