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Siilasmaa dampens expectations of higher wages

Risto Siilasmaa, who chairs a lobby group for Finnish tech companies, says there should be more local pay bargaining in Finland. At present most unions and employer groups agree industry-wide pay deals, which bind every firm in that sector to a minimum salary increase for every employee.

Teknologiateollisuus ry:n hallituksen puheenjohtaja Risto Siilasmaa.
Risto Siilasmaa, who heads the boards of Nokia and F Secure. Image: Yle

As the Finnish economy picks up, so do expectations of higher wages after years of moderate pay deals. On Friday OP Group, a financial services firm, raised its 2017 growth forecast to 2.3 percent.

At the same time, pay talks are set to begin this autumn between unions and employers, with the labour movement keen to improve worker compensation after several years of low pay increases.

The unions are particularly keen to claw back some income lost as a result of Juha Sipilä's competitiveness pact, which extended working hours for no extra pay—effectively cutting income.

Still a way to go

Speaking on Yle's Ykkösaamu programme on Saturday, the chair of the Finnish tech firms' lobby group, Risto Siilasmaa, said that pay could not rise too quickly without damaging the economy.

"Finland has been in such a trough since 2008 that we're not going to climb out of it right away," said Siilasmaa, who also chairs the boards of both Nokia and F-Secure. "Industry is still a long way from being healthy."

He added his voice to calls by Finance Minister Petteri Orpo this week for pay restraint. The current system binds all companies together no matter what, when their capacity to afford pay increases diverges widely. He says there should be more flexibility within sectors to pay different salaries.

Link to 'real economy'

"Switching to local pay bargaining is continually current and necessary," said Siilasmaa. "Because now we have these groups of companies that are doing poorly, and some that are doing well. And if we agree one pay deal for the whole sector, we have to find a compromise between those two groups."

Siilasmaa estimates that half of all tech industry workers are in firms that lose money.  He praised the current 'Finnish model', in which exporting industries set the tone for all pay deals in the Finnish system.

"The link is a link to the real economy," said Siilasmaa. "It is completely impossible that public sector pay raises could become detached from Finnish exports."

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