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Union slams bonus payments as CEO waives two months' salary

One shop steward told Yle that he fears in future postal workers will be paid in social benefits. 

Postin Pirkanmaa pääluottamusmies Leo Harra
Pirkanmaa shop steward Leo Harra Image: Marjut Suomi / Yle

Heikki Malinen, CEO of Posti, has informed the Board of Directors that he will not collect his salary on two separate months during the second half of this year.

Malinen’s salary of 82,500 euros per month has been the focus of much scrutiny as postal workers union PAU has expanded a strike that started on Sunday evening to cover truck drivers, in protest at what the union says is undue pressure on agency workers to work during the strike.

Posti chair Markku Pohjola welcomed Malinen’s announcement.

"This is his personal decision during a very difficult transitional period, and the Board of Directors appreciates his gesture,” Pohjola said.

In an interview with rural newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus, Malinen explained the reasoning behind his decision.

“I thought about it and told [the board] that I was going to waive two months' salary. The decision is entirely personal. In view of the overall situation, I considered this a necessity," Malinen said.

PAU’s head shop steward in Pirkanmaa, Leo Harra, was standing outside the Multisilta sorting office in Tampere on Monday.

“We’re banned from the whole area. During the strike we stay outside the gates,” said Harra.

Posti: This strike is illegal

According to the employer, this week’s industrial action is illegal. However, despite the strike, Posti’s Head of Control Centre Jarmo Ainasoja said that most deliveries will get to customers as planned.

“At the moment, it looks like a small number of mail could be delayed by about a day,” said Ainasoja. “We are sorry to all our customers for any inconvenience caused.”

Morning newspaper deliveries are not affected by the strike.

According to Ainasoja the extent of disruption depends on how big a proportion of the Posti workforce goes out on strike.

“Managers promising 200 euro bonuses”

According to Harra, agency workers and managers are currently working at sorting offices. He says Posti’s tactics are worthy of criticism.

“Posti has acted disgracefully in trying to break the strike,” said Harra. “Posti has promised bonuses and threatened agency workers with reductions in hours. Managers have been promised 200 euro bonuses.”

Yle asked Posti about Harra’s claims, and they did not deny them.

Posti has ‘Kiitos’ bonuses, which are paid to workers for good work,” Posti’s communications department said. “These payments are in use in exceptional situations too.”

Harra also criticised the much-reported salary of the company’s CEO, as well as the bonuses paid when the company is not doing well.

He says he regards the bonuses paid to managers during the strike as ‘outrageous’.

“This is unprecedented,” said Harra. “If Posti now has resources for this kind of payment, why doesn’t it have the resources to pay others?”

“Kela will pay our wages”

PAU’s strike was sparked by Posti’s attempt to transfer parcel sorting staff to a collective labour agreement allowing much lower pay.

According to PAU the move could cut pay in sorting offices by between 30 and 50 percent. The average salary is 2,200 euros, meaning that the pay cut is around 660 euros.

“If pay is cut by 30-50 percent, our wages are paid by Kela [the social insurance institution responsible for welfare],” said Harra. “Everyone can consider if their own salary was cut by that much, is it right?”

According to Posti, the union’s comparison does not give an accurate picture.

“The Industrial Union’s collective agreement has planned payments for performance and the total package is, at best, higher than it is now,” said Turkka Kuusisto of Posti’s Package and online shopping operations group. “You can’t just compare the monthly salaries on the chart.”

Posti aiming for ‘working conditions on the same level’

Posti says it is aiming for 150-200 million euros worth of savings, and says it wants the same kind of working conditions as at competitors.

Harra rejects that argument, saying that DHL and other package delivery firms in Finland do not use the agreement that Posti is aiming for, preferring the transport sector agreement.

“If the employer gets what they’re aiming for, Posti’s competitive advantage is huge,” said Harra. “Is Posti, as a state-owned company, aiming for profits? In my opinion it isn’t. People should have decent wages.”

Posti says it is currently the only company in Finland using the postal and logistics sector agreement thrashed out with PAU.

Transport firms that also deliver packages follow the transport union’s agreement. Some ten percent of Posti’s own employees are also covered by that agreement, according to Turkka Kuusisto.

Shop steward: “Labour market strife starting in other sectors”

According to Posti 700 workers are transferring to the Industrial Union’s distribution collective agreement.

Harra fears that this kind of collective agreement ‘shopping’ could spread to other parts of the economy.

“If Posti gets what it wants, then this kind of thing will spread elsewhere,” said Harra.

Transport, railway and maritime unions have condemned Posti’s actions and Harra says he’s sure that support actions will happen if a resolution isn’t reached.

“I believe that customers are behind us,” said Harra. “People walk past and wish us good luck.”

Turkka Kuusisto says that the company is seeking flexibility through the changes.

“We are not aiming for cost savings first and foremost, but above all we want flexibility in our package sorting work,” said Kuusisto in a statement. “Our goal is flexible and similar working conditions to our competitors’.”

Professor: Impact on other negotiations

Tampere University’s labour researcher and professor of sociology Harri Melin says that the Posti dispute could have an impact on other union-employer negotiations this autumn.

“This autumn will be quite warm in the labour market,” said Melin, who cites economic growth and lengthened working hours imposed by the last government as upward pressures on pay settlements.

On the other hand, economic forecasts suggest growth might not continue.

Melin says that similar moves to find cheaper labour conditions will become more common in Finland. Posti is, according to Melin, a test case, because it is one company in one sector trying to minimise the cost of labour.

Edit: Updated on 2 September at 5.50pm to include Malinen’s announcement.

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