Finnish gov't wins vote of confidence on tougher labor policy, more strikes expected

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-18 00:26:27|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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HELSINKI, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- The standoff between the center-right Finnish government and the country's trade unions showed no sign of easing on Wednesday as the cabinet won a parliamentary vote of confidence over its labor policy reform. As a reaction, the unions announced new, wider labor actions.

The acute issue is the legislative plan to make dismissals easier in small enterprises. The cabinet says the change would improve employment as the risk of being stuck with "a wrong recruit" would be reduced.

The unions say the change would create a two-tier labor force, with people in small companies having a worse job security. Its constitutionality has been questioned as well, in terms of the equality of citizens.

The voting results on Wednesday were 101 votes for and 73 against. Prime Minister Juha Sipila interpreted the result as a backing to moving forward with the plan.

The prime minister had actively sought the vote of confidence, which was seen by commentators as an attempt by Sipila to create through parliament "a shield against the unions". Commenting on the tactics, Teija Sutinen, political analyst of the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, believed that it would not work.

The governmental plan to to ease the dismissals in small companies with less than 10 employees will hardly affect big companies, but major industrial unions have been willing to take action, fearing that the proposed system could begin spreading to bigger firms and public service later.

Antti Rinne, the chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party, said again on Wednesday the government must return to the tripartite system where unions, the employers and the government used to prepare labor laws before parliamentary processes.

Sipila said the tripartite was tried, but it did not bring any results as unanimity was not reached.


During the current job security quarrel, both the public opinion and the political scene have shown a division on ideological lines, which has not been seen so clearly for a long time in Finland.

Analysts believe Finland is moving to a "two blocks" system that is prevailing in Sweden. In votes from the opposition parties, the political left was joined by the greens and the right wing Finns Party members, while MPs of the often business-oriented Swedish Party and the small Christian League were split in either endorsing, opposing or voting blank.

Even though the Finns Party currently highlights anti-immigration and nationalist themes, its origins are in defending the small.

In opinion polls, the country is equally split. In a survey carried by Helsingin Sanomat, 47 percent of respondents opposed the government plan and 43 percent backed. The results of a poll by national broadcaster Yle were almost identical.

Before the parliamentary vote on Wednesday morning, a public sector union announced a two-day strike for next week. The action by ten thousand workers would hamper school meals, for example. Two unions representing nurses also announced shift change bans.

Various protests have continued for weeks organized by labor unions ranging from public services and major industries to the unions of teachers and highly skilled engineers. Local media expected that further measures would be taken by industrial unions later this week.