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ISSUE 73 page 4

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Finnish unionists fight wage cuts on the streets

 THE NEW FINNISH GOVERNMENT, WHICH INCLUDES the far-right Finns party, has wasted little time in antagonising trade unionists. Proposals to abolish two bank holidays, reduce sick pay and put a legal limit on overtime, Sunday pay and length of holiday brought 300,000 people out in protest on September 18th. Three Finnish confederations of workers, SAK, STTK and AKAVA, organised a mass demonstration to protest against the measures. Union leaders insisted on the value of negotiations: ‘Forcing through legislation is not the way to get a sustainable and trustworthy solution’ commented  

  FinLeaders

Union leader Lyly, Prime Minister Sipilä and finance  minister Stubb

FinlandDemo

The 300,000-strong trade union protest in Helsinki

pay rates to the export sector of the economy. It also offered to increase employee contributions to unemployment insurance if the government dropped pay cuts. The government rejected these proposals but requested talks between unions and employer organisations to see if a new agreement could be reached.
Eventually Prime Minister Juha Sipilä abandoned the reductions in overtime and Sunday pay which had been particularly criticised as falling disproportionately on the lower-paid and women. Instead he said that holiday pay would be reduced by 30% but stressed pro-worker measures such as a duty on employers to fund retraining for those made redundant and six months of health care. The government wants to implement the new laws by June next year so that they will be in place as current collective agreements expire. Although employers’ groups such as the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) have said ‘We will not move forward with a centralised wage settlement’ talks continue between the social partners and union leaders such as Lauri Lyly, the president of SAK, believe that the new laws are unlikely to be enforced.

Jarkko Eloranta of the JHL public sector union. SAK made a counter-proposal which involved a wage freeze, rises are already scheduled to be moderate (see last issue), and then tieing

 

 

Air France unions talk on after violence headlines
Russian pilots’ union officials freed

SOCIAL PARTNER NEGOTIATIONS AT FRENCH AIRLINE Air France received rather wider news coverage than usual after two members of senior management had their shirts ripped at a meeting of the works council. Seeking to explain a restructuring plan that could lead to 2,900 job losses Human Resources manager Xavier Broseta and Pierre Plisonnier had to escape from a small group of angry protesters by climbing a fence. The CGT and CFDT union confederations condemned the attack and said that the managers had been helped to leave by works council union delegates. Commenting on the restructuring plan itself the CGT federation recalled that 15,000 posts at the company had already been eliminated since 2008 and the new ‘Plan B’ would also ground 14 long-haul jets, defer deliveries of new aircraft and cut five routes. The unions want to start an effective social dialogue with both the company and the government which owns 17% of Air France’s shares.. ‘Only an industrial project based on a unifying and ambitious development will build support of all Air France employees’ they said in a joint statement. Philippe Evain, head of the  pilots’ union SNPL's Air France branch, said it was ready to make new offers to management: ‘Yes we are ready to make new proposals. We are always open to discussions.

AFBossFence

M.Broseta escapes minus his shirt

FOLLOWING A CAMPAIGN BY BRITISH trade unionists, and a letter of protest from TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady to the Russian ambassador (see issue 66), the three leaders of the ShPLS pilots’ union have left prison. They were convicted, seemingly as revenge, after winning an award of one billion roubles in unpaid wages from the Aeroflot airline. Now the court of appeals has overturned the sentences although they await a new trial. Nonetheless a Russian trade union spokesperson described the outcome as ‘a huge step forward’.




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