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Tuesday's papers: Regional elections, winter of discontent, and real estate prices

Finland holds regional elections in January.

Annika Saarikko, taustalla keskustan banderolleja.
Centre Party leader Annika Saarikko is keen for people to vote in the regional elections next January. Image: Lehtikuva

The Centre Party launched it's regional election campaign on Monday, announcing a desire to win control of a majority of the new regional authorities.

Enthusiasm for the elections could be low, according to a recent survey, but for the Centre Party they are a joyful event.

The party has long advocated for another layer of elected government, and finally got its wish with the new assemblies set up to control health and social care services on a regional basis.

Ilta-Sanomat reports that party leader Annika Saarikko said that her party's goal was to ensure every municipality retains a health centre, even as pressure grows to cut costs and streamline services.

That pressure is likely to fall on tiny rural municipalities that tend to elect large numbers of Centre Party councillors, so her party has more skin in the game than most.

"The last experience of a new election in Finland was linked to the EU elections some twenty years ago," said Saarikko. "Now in the same way a new election culture is being created, and we're encouraging people to vote. If the problem with EU elections was that issues felt distant, now we are coming very close to people's everyday affairs."

Strike warning

Iltalehti carries a warning of industrial action that could disrupt export industries this winter. The problem is in the industrial sector, where negotiations on a new collective agreement have not even started.

The employers association Technology Industries of Finland has said that its members now have the choice of joining a new organisation to negotiate a sector-wide agreement, or negotiating workplace-by-workplace.

Just 391 companies have signed up to be bound by the joint talks, with the remainder of the 1,600 firms in the association preferring to negotiate locally.

This means that there will soon be a situation where workers are no longer covered by a collective agreement and can legally go on strike to improve their terms and conditions. Employers too can call lockouts as part of their negotiating strategy.

If employers and unions representing more than half of a sector's employees agree a deal, it will be ruled binding even on firms that weren't part of the talks. That has in practice been the situation for the vast majority of Finland's workforce, but that situation appears to be changing.

Prolonged industrial strife could herald a more unequal Finland, in which universal annual pay increases play a smaller role in reducing income differences.

That's part of the plan, according to Iltalehti, with employers' organisations and influential right-wing thinkers suggesting in recent years that binding agreements and universal pay norms should be challenged.

House prices high

Finland's national estate agent association released a forecast on Monday that suggested the housing market is set to continue its long boom.

Helsingin Sanomat reports that agents don't see any downward pressure on prices, with a shortage of newer, larger properties making life harder for buyers in many regions.

The association said that some sellers had raised asking prices too much, however, and that meant they'd have to wait longer to sell their properties.

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