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Wednesday's papers: Collective agreements run dry, future PM speculation and allergic dogs

Finland's print press looks at a standstill in collective bargaining, a prime minister contender poll and the sensitivities of our favourite furry companions.

Penttilän perhe, äiti Liisa, Jade ja Helmi istuvat sohvalla ja lukevat kuvakirjaa. Perheen koira makaa vieressä.
Image: Tommi Parkkinen / Yle

Finland doesn't have a nationally-appointed minimum wage. Instead, the country has practiced collective bargaining since the 1970s, whereby employers and trade unions regularly negotiate wage agreements on the national and industry-specific level. During the negotiations things like salary levels, holiday and overtime pay and working hours are haggled over and, hopefully, agreed upon for the coming period.

The country's leading newspaper Helsingin Sanomat looks into a concerning issue this Wednesday, as the current collective agreements of 1.2 million Finnish residents are set to expire tonight. This presents the risk of labour strikes, if employer representatives refuse to meet union demands.

The paper says trade unions representing nurses, wait staff and municipal workers, among others, are asking for a 3.2 percent wage increase over the next two years. After years of stagnant salaries, labour representatives feel that workers have been patient enough, and now that the economy is improving, it is time they had their due.

A pact this autumn between Finland's Industrial Union and the Technology Industries of Finland to hike tech workers' salary by 1.6 percent has set the bar, and most employers are expected to at least meet this level. But there is still disagreement over how the raises should be distributed: should they be across-the-board, workplace-specific, targeted at the company's lowest earners, or available to everyone?

Helsingin Sanomat says this and many other sticky issues are still on the table, and so it says it is highly likely that unions will start industrial action as the collective agreements expire. Some 420,000 municipal workers are most likely to see the talks drag on. Other sectors without a collective agreement as of Thursday will include retail, hospitality, real estate, railway workers, including the organisations of the National Opera, the social benefits administrator Kela and the state-owned alcohol monopoly Alko.

Potential agreements will also be delayed by the strikes and demonstrations spearheaded by Finland's largest blue-collar union SAK, set for this Friday, February 2nd in Helsinki's Senate Square. Friday's industrial action was called in protest of the government's new "active model" penalising unemployed who can't prove they have been working or in training.

Top choice for next PM?

Hot on the heels of the landslide presidential elections that saw Sauli Niinistö re-elected with over 60 percent of the vote, the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat is already looking ahead to next year's parliamentary elections. IS carried out a reader poll asking who would be their top choice as prime minister for the next four-year term.

Coming out on top was National Coalition chair and Finance Minister Petteri Orpo. His number one position at 17 percent perhaps doesn't come as a shock, as his party has been winning the most support in party opinion polls for the last six months or so.

Who came in second is the bigger surprise: Li Andersson, Left Alliance chair and MP. Her ascent to number one opposition leader, at 13 percent, among a team of larger and better-recognised parties like the Social Democratic Party and the Greens is a noteworthy development.

Third place went to the sitting Prime Minister Juha Sipilä of the Centre Party. His 12 percent haul puts him within the margin of error with Andersson. The fourth most popular PM contender in the mid-January poll was Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho (9 percent), SDP chair Antti Rinne (8 percent) came in fifth, and he was followed by the Greens' chair Touko Aalto (3 percent) and the Blues' chair Sampo Terho (2 percent).

Over one-third of the respondents (35 percent) to the IS poll would not say who they would support as the next prime minister.

Kids keep dogs healthy

And then to the city of Tampere and its newspaper Aamulehti that features a story on how family dogs prevent allergies – no, this time it is about how large families prevent dogs from getting allergies!

Researchers examined 6,000 canines for their study, and found that dogs that lived with families with more than two children have far fewer allergies, regardless of their breed. The Finnish research team also discovered that dogs that live in urban environments were also more likely to have allergies than their furry compatriots in the countryside.

"A particularly surprising finding was that many dogs and their owners have the same allergies simultaneously. This lent further support to our finding that high-density areas are a risk factor for mammal allergies," says research doctor Jenni Lehtimäki from the University of Helsinki.

Finnish researchers are also interested in the increase of so-called "diseases of affluence" among pets. Incidences of cancer, allergies and even diabetes are up across the board.

"Dogs suffer from the same illnesses as people. Human diseases of affluence have become worryingly more common in veterinary offices," says professor Hannes Lohi in the paper.

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