Why do salaries rise every year? What is going on behind the closed door live streams on Finnish news sites? What is a 'tupo'?We tried to answer these and other questions about industrial relations and the labour market in this week’s All Points North podcast.
Each year most people in Finland get a pay rise. They don’t ask for it, they don’t negotiate it themselves, it just arrives in their wage packets as a result of a deal between trade unions and employers and it helps ensure wages keep up with inflation.
Right now those talks are going on, and that’s why Finland’s news is sporadically dominated by footage of locked doors from which tired, crumpled negotiators emerge to tell the country how much of a pay bump they might get.
Finland has a very high level of union membership, with some 59 percent of the workforce being a member of one union or another.
"It has been a long part of the Finnish and larger Nordic tradition that the labour unions and trade associations* are a very big part of this system," says Yle political journalist Robert Sundman.
Scroll down for a glossary of key labour market terms
#Doorlive: A Finnish media tradition
That system has involved unions, employers and often the government as well getting together to thrash out issues of pay and conditions across large swathes of the economy.
Not only do hard-nosed journalists stand vigil at the door waiting for an insight into the progress of wage talks, they sometimes listen to live broadcasts of what’s happening outside the door as well. Sundman says the “#ovilive” streams (roughly “#doorlive in English) are nothing new.
"I have talked about this topic with my older colleagues and many of them have been behind the doors for years, even decades," Sundman explains.
"It’s also done because the news cycle is faster and we have all this technology that enables live streaming. It’s a fair question to ask if it’s good journalism to show the door for hours but it’s part of news competition. We the journalists and also the audience want to know everything first-hand."
In recent years there has been pressure to make the system more flexible, especially from the employers’ side and the centre-right parties in parliament.
Elena Gorshkow of the white collar confederation the STTK is not keen on that idea.
"We have had this negotiating system, it has created peace," Gorschkow says. "For example it’s quite rare that we have strikes because when the collective agreement is in force then the employee side agrees not to cause any damage in the field of industry and that’s why things have been quite prosperous, I would say."
"That’s one of the reasons Finland is seen as a very stable country. So I am really defending this, saying we shouldn’t look at international countries and see what’s good in our system and see what we should maybe preserve because others are starting to look here and see that we have something good and quite valuable," she continues.
Story continues after photo
The recent deal in the industrial sector took nearly half a year to thrash out but in the end employers lost the extra hours forced through as part of the ‘competitiveness pact’. So after all that, was the deal worth the hassle?
We can’t tell yet, according to Mikko Kiesiläinen of the employers’ Confederation of Finnish Industries.
"I think it’s too early to give any kind of judgement on the system as a whole, I think we need first to go through the whole round before we can give a judgement on that," Kiesiläinen tells APN.
So keep your eyes on those locked doors for the latest news on whether you, and 90 percent of the workforce, will get a pay rise.
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The All Points North podcast is a weekly look at what's going on in Finland. Subscribe via iTunes (and leave a review!), listen on Spotify and Yle Areena or find it on your favourite podcatching app or via our RSS feed.
This week's show was presented by Egan Richardson and Denise Wall. Our producer was Priya Ramachandran D'souza and our sound designer and audio engineer was Laura Koso.
Good to know — a glossary of labour market terms
The collective agreement (työehtosopimus or 'TES' in Finnish) governs wages, terms and conditions of employment for everyone in a given sector. The latest figures from 2017 show that 88.8 percent of the workforce was covered by a collective agreement, down from 91.9 percent in 2014.
Industrial peace (työrauha in Finnish) should reign when a collective agreement is in force. That is, unions are not legally allowed to go on strike if they have a valid agreement with employers. If they don’t all bets are off and they can take industrial action.
The general raise (yleiskorotus in Finnish) is the cost-of-living raise usually defined in the collective agreement.
It is detailed in the pay tables (palkkataulukot) which are attached to every collective agreement. That system means Finland has no general minimum wage.
The blue collar trade union confederation SAK is an umbrella organisation for all the trade unions representing blue collar workers, such as train drivers, factory workers and others.
The white collar trade union confederation STTK fulfills the same function for white collar workers, that is those who work in an office.
The trade union confederation for highly-educated workers is called Akava. They represent unions for doctors and others in the professions.
The employers’ umbrella organisation is called EK, the Confederation of Finnish Industries.
Media often use ‘Hakaniemi’ as a shorthand for the blue collar unions, referencing the peninsular east of Helsinki city centre where many of them are headquartered.
‘Eteläranta’ is the equivalent shorthand for EK and employers organisations.
The incomes policy (tulopolitiikka or ‘tupo’ in Finnish) was a system designed to limit inequality by centrally deciding on pay rises between government, trade union representatives and employer representatives. The last ‘tupo’ was agreed in 2011, after which employers’ representatives began to seek more flexible solutions.
Tripartite (kolmikantainen) wage bargaining was the three-party system via which the incomes policy was decided.
The competitiveness pact (kilpailukykysopimus or kiky in Finnish) was an agreement between government, employers and unions forcing almost everyone in the country to work an extra 24 hours a year -- without additional pay -- in an effort to reduce the cost of labour and improve competitiveness in Finnish industry.