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Nurses’ unions say no to the conciliation committee pay deal proposal

Nurses' unions rejected the conciliation committee proposal for a pay deal for the municipal sector. Other unions and employers in the sector accepted it.

Other unions in the municipal sector also demanded a pay rise that goes over the general pay rise in the private sector. The reasons and motivation for all unions are similar: without a real increase of income in the municipal sector the already existing shortage of labour will only get worse.

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, in May 2022 the top three professions suffering from labour shortages were practical nurses, registered nurses and social work professionals.

“Towards the end of 2021, there were on average 8,000 vacancies for practical nurses in employment services every month. Approximately 4,600 vacancies for registered nurses were advertised every month”, the Ministry says.

Five year pay programme

However, collective bargaining for the 425,000 employees in the municipal sector failed to make headway. Tuula Haatainen, the Minister of Employment, set up a conciliation committee to draft a proposal. This is a very unusual move.

Now, the committee has put forward its proposal. It included a three-year collective agreement and a five-year pay programme.

The pay programme would have given municipal employees approximately a one percentage point extra pay rise every year for five years. This extra would have been calculated on top of the pay rise achieved in the chemical industry, technology industry and transport.

Out of the four parties in the agreement, three accepted the proposal. JHL, the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors accepted, on condition that all other parties accept it, too. The union council approved the deal by 67 votes to 27 with one blank vote.

Nurses’ unions Tehy and Super said no to the proposal. “The committee did not understand the seriousness and impacts of the shortage of nurses. I repeat, we will not make a bad deal. We are not in a hurry”, says Tehy President Millariikka Rytkönen.

Both unions decided on 11 May that they will begin to prepare for a mass resignation of nurses in the event of no deal. This method was used successfully in 2007. Back then, more than 12,000 nurses were ready to resign.

With the Government’s Patient Security Act hanging over their heads, which would force many striking nurses back to work, a strike would have been largely ineffective. But there is no law which forbids anyone from quitting their job.

According to the nurses’ unions, the resignations will happen only after the other collective agreements in the municipal sector are agreed, but in any case no later than the first of January 2023. The resignations will not happen over the summer, in order not to endanger the nurses’ summer holidays.

At the moment it remains unclear whether the proposal will actually result in new collective agreements as the nurses unions are not part of it.

Heikki Jokinen