Akava’s shop steward barometer: Dismissals have become a conveyor belt routine

Dismissals and other personnel reductions have become a conveyor belt routine according to Akava’s latest shop steward barometer. Of the shop stewards’ workplaces, more than 70% in the private sector and over 60% in the public sector have seen reductions in personnel over the past two years. Altogether 835 shop stewards contributed to the shop steward barometer in January 2015. Through their workplaces, they represent nearly 170,000 managerial employees.

The primary reason for the personnel reductions in the private sector have been dismissals for financial or productive grounds (over 80%). The public sector took advantage of the process of natural loss, meaning that new employees were not hired to replace those who retired (more than 80%) and fixed-term employments were not renewed (more than 70%).

Dismissals and lay-offs in companies take up the majority of the shop stewards’ time.

- Even though we are accustomed to hearing news about dismissals on a weekly basis, we were still surprised that the figures were this high. Personnel reductions have become automatic in preparation for changes and it has become really easy to dismiss personnel by claiming productive or financial grounds. Nowadays, it seems that companies are not even trying to find other solutions, states Director Maria Löfgren.

Shop stewards have insufficient access to information

Shop stewards do not receive sufficient information about their employer’s financial situation and development outlook. Only about 60% of the shop stewards in the private sector and 70% in the public sector receive information on a regular basis, even though the law requires the employer to provide relevant information at least twice per year.

– Generally, information is not provided unless one enquires about it or requests it. All the loopholes that can be used to hide information are being used. The employer doesn’t understand that if I knew more, I could disseminate the appropriate information and be a huge asset to the employer, state shop stewards in their responses to the survey.

Sture Fjäder, President of Akava, points out that information about the development outlook would fundamentally facilitate the prediction of changes and, perhaps, the preparation of different personnel arrangements.

– Finnish businesses claim to want local agreements, trust and flexibility. The simplest solution for achieving these is by improving the position of the shop stewards, the right to information and staff participation rights, Fjäder states, as a signal for the new Government.

Only around half (58%) of all workplaces have a valid personnel and training plan in place. Shop stewards report having a limited or no possibility to participate in the drafting of plans in just under half of all workplaces (private 49%, public 41%) that have a shop steward.

Akava proposes that the deadlines for official employee co-operation negotiations be extended for employers that have neglected to draft personnel and training plans.

– Dismissals are all too easy for profitable companies. We need to develop more backbone and get the message out there that we have a respect for fairness in this country. We must limit the bases for dismissals for productive grounds and shift the weight to financial grounds. Furthermore, the employer must carry more responsibility for funding change security when dismissals occur despite the profitability of business activities. This would increase people’s faith in the future, says Fjäder.

According to the Quality of work life survey conducted by Statistics Finland, wage earners believe that their ability to find a new job has weakened.

– Of all wage earners, nearly one third believes that employment opportunities are poor. For managerial personnel, the figure was one in five. This is a very sad situation, says researcher Päivi Soikkeli.

Further information:

Sture Fjäder, President of Akava, tel. +358 (0)400 609 717
Maria Löfgren, Director, Working Life, tel. +358 (0)40 568 2798
Päivi Soikkeli, Researcher, tel. +358 (0)40 527 3251

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