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Service union pledges election funds to turn out "wage earner-hostile gov't"

PAM President Ann Selin says her union will donate hundreds of thousands of euros to Finland's left-leaning parties before the parliamentary election in April.

Ann Selin
PAM President Ann Selin Image: Pekka Tynell / Yle

Appearing in an Yle interview on Saturday, Service Union United PAM's president Ann Selin said that her 230,000-member trade union will contribute hundreds of thousands of euros to left-leaning parties in Finland ahead of next spring's general elections in order to "highlight the voice of wage earners".

Selin is also the chair of the delegate council of Finland's largest union confederation, SAK. The 129-member council is the sovereign policymaking body of the near-one-million-member blue-collar labour organisation.

"Our intention is to make the country's government take note: we are being serious. During the three-year reign of this government, wage earners have been beaten down. It's no coincidence that SAK decided to name its campaign "The Last Straw". This is what people in the field are saying. Nothing is enough; labourers are being brought to their knees," Selin said in the interview.

She maintains that many of PAM's workers in the private service sector have been disappointed in Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's three-party centre-right coalition.

"We haven't had a government that has been this hostile to wage earners in a long time. The only one that comes to mind is Esko Aho's 1990s government. Their labour reforms attacked the unions just as brutally," Selin said.

"No compromises" in opposition to new firing policy

Selin also indicated her staunch opposition to the government's proposed plan to ease the process of firing employees for companies with fewer than 20 workers. Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä had earlier told Yle that the figure of 20 workers is not fixed, and could be lowered if necessary.

"It absolutely cannot happen to wage earners that the size of the company would determine what kind of protection against dismissal they have. No use playing with numbers – two, three or five – the answer will always be the same. The equal treatment of all human beings is at stake," she said.

In protest of the proposed firing policy, PAM has pledged to join several other trade unions in Finland and participate in a ban on overtime work. The unions have not yet announced the date the industrial action will begin.

"People are very angry, and there is a strong desire to show the government that they should understand not to do these kinds of things. A law like this would put people in very unequal positions, determined by the size of the company. It would also put Finland's companies on different footing," Selin said.

Selin said in the interview that if the government wants to safeguard against worker discontent growing even worse, it should simply withdraw the proposal.

"There's no shame in cancelling it. We are more than willing to consider some alternatives in a tripartite setting," she said.

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