New union leader calls for merger of large federations
SAK vice chairman calls for more local labour contracts
Matti Huutola, who has been named vice chairman of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), says that it is "only a matter of time" before the SAK merges with the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees (STTK).
"Most of the issues of the wage earners of the STTK and SAK are the same. The logical question would be if it would not be wise to work together", said Huutola in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat.
Huutola adds that changes in business and working life both on the national level and in the European Union are forcing unions, as well as central organisations, to merge.
In Huutola’s view, wage earners need a strong counterforce to the new employers’ organisation Finnish Industries (EK), which is to be formed in the upcoming merger of the Confederation of Finnish Industry and Employers (TT), and the Confederation of Service Industries in Finland (PT).
As a trade union leader, Huutola takes the somewhat surprising view that the time of large binding contracts is over; he calls for more leeway for agreeing on wage levels at the individual company level.
He also comes out in favour of a system of local agreements, which would make it possible for individual companies and their employees to agree on issues such as dividing a company’s result, whether or not to invest in new equipment or property, and whether to create new jobs, or distribute the result among the owners and employees.
Huutola feels that he is throwing "a really big carrot" to Finland’s employers. However, he adds that the carrot is conditional to what he sees as fairness of the contracts.
"Growth in the productivity of labour is a key part of producing a result in a company. I am quite certain that through fair wage agreements, it is possible to achieve higher productivity."
Huutola adds that negotiations at the individual company level must not be limited to personnel cutbacks and pay cuts. "It must also mean better working life, and wage flexibility in the other direction."
Matti Huutola takes up his post on May 1.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Career diplomat surprise choice as leader of new employer's organisation (19.3.2004)
Employer's confederations announce merger (13.2.2004)