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Thursday's papers: Strike threat analysis, employment stats question and Metro problems

Newspapers on Thursday include stories on the welter of strike threats in Finnish industrial disputes, a look at positive employment figures, and Metro delays.

Siivoojia työssään
Image: Mika Kanerva

Thursday's papers include a look by Helsingin Sanomat at the currently tense negotiations around terms and conditions for several low-paid sectors in the Finnish economy. The issue, according to HS, is that Finland's system of sector-based collective agreements demands employers and unions agree new terms at regular intervals.

Industrial workers last autumn won a deal for 3.2 percent pay increases over two years, and that raise propagated through to other sectors so that deals covering around a million workers were agreed with that headline figure.

Now it is the turn of lower-paid workers including cleaners, daycare teachers, and others. Some higher-paid workers are also trying to claw back some of the concessions made to agree a so-called 'competitiveness pact' that reduced pay across the economy in 2016 in an effort to boost exports.

The problem is that employers and union confederations had broadly agreed when negotiating that pact that Finland should in future follow the 'Swedish model' under which pay rises in other sectors do not exceed those in the exporting industries. Unions representing lower-paid workers, such as PAM, reckon its unfair that they have to abide by an agreement they did not negotiate--and want a bigger boost to their mostly low income members' pay.

That impasse has led to overtime bans and strike notifications in many sectors, and the prospect of strikes as the negotiations drag on.

How active is active?

Iltalehti looks at the positive employment figures published on Tuesday with a critical eye. The figures showed the employment rate approaching the government's target of 72 percent, but the paper reckons that's because the figures misrepresent a good many people who probably regard themselves as unemployed.

That's because the government's 'active model' demands people work 18 hours over three months to retain their unemployment benefits. So a person who works one hour a week and reports that to the survey will be counted as 'active' and therefore no longer unemployed--but still regard themselves as jobless.

This move towards part-time work is a nudge in the same direction as Sweden, meaning that those counted as in work are not making as much money as might be expected.

"You could say that in Finland too there has been a reduction in the quality of employment," said Danske Bank economist Pasi Kuoppamäki.

One other factor mentioned by IL is the rapidly ageing Finnish population. As the working age population shrinks, it gets easier to improve the percentage of that population in employment.

Metro worries

Helsingin Sanomat reports the second consecutive day of difficulties on the Helsinki Metro system. On Wednesday the network suffered a fault near Hertoniemi, resulting in irregular service all day long.

HS reports that the two days' faults are not related to each other, and that passengers may have to wait as long as 15 minutes for a train at times.

The western extension of the metro system has been plagued with delays and complaints about the new bus lines set up to feed the stations in Espoo--and particularly the loss of direct bus routes to Helsinki from many parts of Espoo.

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