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Finnish unions stand up for young workers

7 November, 2012Finnish trade union confederations and SASK reject proposals on cutting wages and salaries for young workers.

The Finnish union confederations SAK, STTK and Akava as well as the trade union solidarity centre SASK unanimously condemned the growing suggestions of employers’ associations on the introduction of a lower pay for young workers. The unions jointly labelled these suggestions “unnecessary and unfair”.

The idea to economize on young workers when they start their career is becoming so increasingly popular among employers in Finland that the unions decided to clearly express their position on the issue, arguing that the level of wages and salaries invariably depends on how much work experience an employee has. In addition, the unions believe that the employers already have several options through the hiring of apprentices, who are currently paid 10 to 20 per cent less than the minimum set in collective agreements.

“In Finland, we do not want to have the EUR 1000 generation, familiar across much of Southern Europe. Those young people in the South of Europe cannot afford to live independently and are dependent, often till they are 30 years of age, on the support offered by their parents”, says Ulla Hyvönen, STTK’s expert in student and youth policy. “And lower pay does not even boost youth employment”, she adds.

“A good way to help young people would be to give temporary and part-time employees and agency workers the same working conditions enjoyed by others. This would mean improvements in respect of holiday entitlements, company-based health care, sick pay and income-related unemployment benefits”, stresses Tatu Tuomela, SAK’s youth secretary.

Elina Havu, Akava’s student ombudsman, criticized the existing quality of practical training saying that “Employers often use apprentices to alleviate labour shortages and to replace the input of more experienced employees”. She added, “This kind of behaviour is an abuse of young people’s aptitude and only serves to dampen enthusiasm for work.”

Aleksi Vienonen, in charge of SASK’s communications, underlined the significance and importance for unions to organize young workers. “In countries where the trade union movement is weak, it is common to have problems with regard to labour legislation and in how employees’ rights are respected at work places.”