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Restaurant restrictions lifted, but much uncertainty remains

Many workers only know their shift hours one week in advance, while others are still waiting to be called back to work.

Kokit Minna Hämäläinen ja Aleksi Repo valmistavat ruokaa Puijon Majan keittiössä.
Hospitality industry workers face worries over their future employment. Image: Antti Karhunen / Yle

The restrictions on opening hours, serving times and customer numbers imposed on restaurants, bars and cafes because of the coronavirus pandemic were lifted on Monday in Finland. However much uncertainty remains for both employers and employees.

Many furloughed workers in the hospitality industry are still waiting for the call back to work, while others do not know their working hours beyond the coming week.

There is also little to no information on when employees might be able to take summer holidays.

Throughout the spring and into the summer, workers in the industry have been coming to terms with increased uncertainty, temporary layoffs, and the weakening of collective bargaining agreements.

According to Johanna Sparf, service industry union PAM's Regional Manager for Helsinki-Uusimaa, the situation suddenly became difficult for many workers at the very beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the time, PAM and the employers' association Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa agreed to a proposal to accelerate the furloughing process.

"Preserving jobs and preventing a wave of bankruptcies was on everyone’s mind," Sparf said of the reason for the agreement.

Thousands of workers in the hospitality sector, as well as in many other industries, were temporarily laid off at a rapid rate.

Short notice shift lists, holidays postponed

A further exception was made to the collective agreement between the employers' union and PAM at the beginning of June, when changes to the issuing of shift lists and the amount of annual leave permitted during the summer were agreed.

Currently, it is possible for employers to issue shift lists for only one week at a time, and annual leave entitlements during the summer months can also be postponed.

Sparf reminded employers that if holidays are postponed, it is important to pay attention to issue such as employee fatigue.

The current agreement is valid until the end of September.

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