Union anger over Finnish retirement increase
FINLAND - The three trade union confederations in Finland are organising a national meeting of trustees, or shop stewards, next week against the government's plans to increase the retirement age without consultation.
The government announced last week the lower age limit of the flexible old-age pension would be raised from 63 to 65, through an increase of two months every year starting in 2011, to reach 65 by 2022.
However, Finland's three trade unions, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), the Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK) and the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff (Akava), have criticised the sudden increase.
The employee confederations, which between them represent over two million workers, have also objected to the government's failure to cooperate under the normal tripartite decision-making process usually adopted when developing collective framework agreements on social policy.
Instead, the STTK claimed when the reform was announced at the end of February it was "ill-timed" and "hastily prepared", and instead suggested the current pension system, that allows a flexible retirement between the ages of 63-68, is supportive to the circumstances of individual workers.
All three confederations are opposed to the plan and have started an online petition calling for the government to withdraw the reforms. It has already received over 15,000 signatures, but talks held between the organisations and Matti Vanhanen, the prime minister, ended without agreement except to meet again on 10 March.
Matti Viljanen, chairman of Akava, said the meeting results were "disappointing" but acknowledged there does exist a "common desire to find a solution to the crisis situation".
In the meantime, the three organisations are organising a nationwide meeting of union representatives to be held in Helsinki on 14 March to discuss the issue after the confederations have been "flooded with thousands of communications" from members and employers.
Elsewhere, Jukka Rantala, managing director of the Finnish Centre for Pensions, said the government objectives are understandable as "it is clear that at some point people's working careers have to be extended as longevity increases, and in this connection the retirement age needs to rise".
However, Rantala pointed out the government's decision to take a unilateral approach "differs from the previous practice of tripartite decision-making, which ensured a broad consensus in advance".
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