Labour Ministry official confirms threat of Nokia leaving Finland over law on electronic communications
The Ministry of Employment and the Union of Salaried Employees (TU) were told during discussions held in 2006 that Nokia would leave Finland if a new law on protecting electronic communications is not achieved.
The Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Employment at the time, Markku Wallin said that he had held discussions with the Confederation of Finnish Industry (EK) on which law the possibility of an employer to monitor the sender and recipient data of employee e-mail communications should be written into.
Wallin feels that the preparation of the bill openly in a working group led by the Ministry of Employment would have secured the high quality of the preparations. He also would have wanted to have the matter handled as part of the law on the protection of privacy at work.
“It was stated unequivocally from EK that the rules need to be prepared in the Ministry of Transport and Communications. In this same connection, the need for a law and the great haste with which it had to be passed was justified by Nokia’s leaving Finland if the bill is not passed”, Wallin told Helsingin Sanomat.
Wallin is currently undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.
Helsingin Sanomat has learned that the threat was put forward by Lasse Laatunen, head of legal affairs at the Confederation of Finnish Industry.
“I don’t remember saying such a thing and I do not believe that I did”, Laatunen said on Monday evening.
Laatunen's involvement was also noted by the white-collar union AKAVA, which has claimed it was pressed to support the planned legislation in 2006 and 2007, in part through an angrily-worded email from Laatunen.
Chancellor of Justice Jaakko Jonkka told Helsingin Sanomat on Monday evening that “there is much that needs fixing”, in the proposal.
Antti Rinne, chairman of the Union of Salaried Employees, has heard claims of threats made by Nokia. “During the handling phase of the bill there were threats that Nokia would leave Finland if the law is not passed."
EK wanted to keep the drafting of the bill in the Ministry of Transport and Communications, because it was in that ministry that people were completely convinced of the importance of the law.
Satu Huovinen (SDP), who had been chosen the new Minister of Transport and Communications in the autumn of 2005, recalls how some of the civil servants of the ministry were wondering about her decision to ask for a statement from the Chancellor of Justice for her proposal.
Huovinen asked for a statement from the Chancellor of Justice in the spring of 2006, because she noticed the problems that the bill posed for fundamental rights.
“At that point, I was left with the impression that some of the civil servants felt that the bill could have been pushed forward without a statement from the Chancellor of Justice”, Huovinen says.
In September 2006 a statement by then-Chancellor of Justice Paavo Nikula rejected the bill, and preparations had to be continued at the ministry.
Finland’s leading professors of law feel that the proposal violates the constitution. The Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee decided in November that the bill is not unconstitutional.
The professors felt that the bill would give companies and associations treater investigative authority than even the police have.
Parliament is to begin final deliberations on the bill today, Tuesday. The leftist opposition would like to see the entire proposal scrapped, and the Greens are calling for modifications.
Previously in HS International Edition:
NBI rejects Lex Nokia (11.2.2009)
Vanhanen denies knowledge of Nokia threat over privacy legislation (2.2.2009)
Trade union pressured over Lex Nokia back in 2006 (23.2.2009)
Data Ombudsman: data protection bill violates communication privacy (23.2.2009)
SDP leader wants government to withdraw Lex Nokia (16.2.2009)
Legal experts say “Lex Nokia” violates constitution (20.11.2008)
”Lex Nokia” gets blessing from Constitutional Law Committee (14.11.2008)
Nokia - stronger than law? (1.2.2009)