Lasse Laatunen

Lasse Laatunen: Labour market situation is unreasonably tough

15.10.2021
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News article

According to Lasse Laatunen, the desire of the current business executives in the forest industry and the technology industry to negotiate company-level collective agreements is partly based on delusional thinking.

According to retired Labour Market Director Lasse Laatunen from employers’ association EK, corporate management has experienced a change of generation, and the new managers do not fully appreciate the operating logic of the labour market. Their will to break the power of the trade union movement and force it into a fall with the help of the Parliament may end up backfiring.

– Today’s corporate management is under the impression, for instance, that local agreement is the same thing as the right to supervise work, meaning that workplaces should do what employers tell them to do. That is not how it works. The agreement is a juridical declaration of intent by both parties, said Laatunen at the Industry Seminar of The Union of Professional Engineers in Finland and Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland TEK, held in Kalajoki.

The previous generation understood that it is better to allow the parties to decide matters themselves rather than let others decide for them.

The previous generation had a broader understanding for example of the well-functioning labour market mechanism as a social conciliation mechanism and understood that it is better to allow the parties to decide matters themselves rather than let others decide for them.

– The operations of the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK show that employers have begun to think that whatever is given up in labour market policy will be regained in politics. The employers’ side may think that when you get rid of agreement, you also get rid of the power of the trade union movement. However, they have failed to consider whether the parties could reach better agreements mutually rather than through politics.

Laatunen points out that Finland will not always have a bourgeois government and even if it did, employers should not trust politicians to decide matters the way that employers want them to.

– Labour market organizations can often agree on things that politicians cannot. The pension system and its reform serves as an example of this. Anything can come out of the Parliament, with all due respect to representative democracy.

Laatunen urges the parties in the labour market to remember the old labour market wisdoms and follow the sometimes-strange logic of labour market negotiations.

– Negotiating agreements yourself often produces better results, and at least you will know what you get and what you do not. In addition, the parties often understand what is feasible for the other party and what is not, and what is sensible in the long run. The political cycle is four years long, but the cycle of labour market policy is much longer.

Hope in sight

According to Lasse Laatunen, the employers in the forest industry and the technology industry are heading towards a situation where withdrawal can end up being costly. 

Laatunen says that the stability of the labour market is the result of hard work, but there is not guarantee that this stability will remain if the system is changed.

– Employers now believe that labour market peace can be kept even if the negotiations shift to the company level. I do not believe this. The current situation is the sum of multiple misjudgements, which may not be resolved except through crisis. Hopefully with as little damage as possible.

According to Laatunen, there is some light in sight in the current situation. Nokia becoming a member of the Technology Industry Employers of Finland may be a sign that things are headed in a more sensible direction.

– Nokia could have drawn up its own agreement as a company, since they had the resources for it. However, they chose differently and that is good news.