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Union: Employees should have right to telework whenever possible

Finland's longest-serving labour minister agrees that the subjective right to remote work should be written into law.

 Kansanedustaja Tarja Filatov, SDP.
Veteran SDP politician Tarja Filatov was labour minister in three cabinets in the early 2000s. Image: Kimmo Brandt / Compic / Eduskunta

Three-time labour minister Tarja Filatov has welcomed a union's call for legislation to ensure some workers' right to work remotely whenever feasible.

"During the coronavirus pandemic, many Finns have become accustomed to working remotely. I consider it reasonable that remote work be encouraged even after the coronavirus is finally defeated. It's appropriate to look into how we could support employees' opportunities for remote work through legislative reform," Filatov told the Finnish news agency STT on Saturday.

Filatov, a major figure in Prime Minister Sanna Marin's Social Democratic Party, was the nation's longest-serving labour minister and longest-serving female minister.

She says that a greater shift toward telecommuting and other flexible work arrangements would help to meet the shortage of skilled workers in some fields in rapidly-growing urban centres.

"Why don't we just talk about work?"

The Union of Private Sector Professionals (Erto) said on Friday that employees should have legal right to work remotely whenever it is possible and does not have any undue negative impact.

Erityisalojen toimihenkilöliiton puheenjohtaja Juri Aaltonen
Erto union president Juri Aaltonen Image: Erto

The union argues that due to technological advances especially those working in expert positions rarely have a need to be physically present. It says that current legislation is outdated in this regard and should be revised.

"Work constantly moves along with the employee. Why do we even talk about remote work and on-site work anymore? Why don't we just talk about work? If work can be done at home, a cafe or a cabin, then why shouldn't it be a right?" asked union president Juri Aaltonen in a statement.

Less than half can telecommute

According to a 2018 study, 57 percent of wage-earners in Finland said they had jobs that could not be done by telecommuting.

In the latest Yle survey, just 26 percent said they have been working completely at a distance since the pandemic began last spring, while 14 percent said they have partly done so.

Filatov served as labour minister in three cabinets between 2000 and 2007. She has also been head of the SDP parliamentary delegation, a deputy party chair, a deputy Speaker of Parliament and chair of its Employment and Equality Committee. The SDP is largely funded by labour unions.

Erto, which is part of the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees (STTK), claims 15,000 members in a wide variety of fields, with women making up more than three quarters of its membership.

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