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PM Sipilä's relations with Finnish unions a complete failure says Li Andersson

Helsingin Sanomat
Li Andersson - Inexperienced Sipilä made 'really bad choices'
Li Andersson - Inexperienced Sipilä made 'really bad choices'
Left Alliance MP slams Prime Minister's relations with unions, and criticises austerity cuts - but can her party offer realistic alternatives to save Finland's economy?

Left Alliance MP Li Andersson, tipped as the next leader of her party, has hit out at the way the Finnish government handles its relations with unions.

Speaking on HSTV’s English-language current affairs show Newsmakers, Andersson said that Prime Minister Juha Sipilä "had no experience of the Finnish labour market system" before coming to power, and had made "really bad choices".

Her comments come as ongoing industrial action among postal workers spreads to transport unions as well, with the Finnish Aviation Union set to strike on Monday and Tuesday.

Noting that the previous government had managed to make deals with unions on pension reform and wages, Andersson said the current coalition government "has been a complete failure, a disaster, if I'm frank" in their management of labour market negotiations.

"It's a question of striking a balance between both parties" said Andersson. "And now we're in a really unbalanced situation where the government is pushing labour market reforms which might be in contradiction with our obligations under the International Labour Organisation" she added.

During the interview, Andersson also discussed her party's plans to spend its way out of recession and condemned the current austerity measures.

"Finland should reduce VAT by 2% for 13 months which would be a way to stimulate consumers to buy more products, buy more services. It would also be a good way for corporations in the Finnish market to sell more products".

Andersson said the Finnish government was "very dogmatic about austerity" but noted the Left Alliance's key focus was reducing unemployment, and that all budget cuts or austerity measures had to be viewed through the prism of whether they would help reduce Finland's unemployment level.

"The biggest problem in Finland is the growing unemployment. We will never get our budget in balance, we will never be able to cut down on the debt to GDP (ratio). We won't get a smaller deficit unless we get unemployment down" she said.

The ongoing rise in available jobs in the US - which added an extra 217,000 jobs in October alone - is hailed by the Left Alliance as proof that it's possible to turn around an economy using stimulus packages, and not through austerity.

"If you look at the US compared with Europe, it has been quite successful in getting the economy back on track, also on cutting the deficit" said Andersson, whereas "we have a lot of examples from Europe about the bad effects of austerity on growth, on employment, also on the deficit".

Internally, the Left Alliance is about to embark on a period of change, with party leader Paavo Arhinmäki announced he would be stepping down from the role next summer after seven years in charge.

While many commentators have tipped Turku MP Andersson as the likely next leader of the Left Alliance, she remains tight-lipped about her prospects of running for the party chair job, saying only that she would think about it during the Christmas break, and then "let everyone know when I've made up my mind".

Andersson praised Arhinmäki for his role leading the party, describing him as a "really important" figure for the left-wing in Finland.

"I think a lot of people see him as the symbol for the party getting younger and also for these red-green policies we wanted to do. So it will be a new phase, and quite an important one as well"


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