Workers in Finland pay for deal to make bosses stronger

By Emma Johnson
February 26, 2018

Thousands demonstrated in Helsinki Feb. 2 protesting laws that cut government aid to unemployed workers if they don’t seek jobs “actively” enough. This is the latest step in an ongoing “Finland First” campaign to strengthen the capitalists’ ability to compete against bosses abroad. The campaign is based on propaganda arguing Finland’s workers and bosses have common interests.

In a brazen display of class collaboration, officials in the main national union federations bought into the campaign and signed onto the Competitiveness Pact in 2016. It spells out in no uncertain terms that it’s the workers who carry the burden in sharpening the competitive edge of Finland’s capitalists.

The deal froze wages; lengthened annual working hours; increased workers’ contributions to pension, social security and unemployment funds; and lowered holiday bonuses. Union federations representing some 85 percent of Finnish workers signed the agreement.

“Today we are making history in Finland. Only a few countries are able to make a decision this tough by a joint agreement,” Prime Minister Juha Sipila wrote when the unions signed the pact.

Now the government is moving to cut unemployment pay, as well as health care and local services. They say “we” need to sacrifice more to let the bosses take on their rivals. The Feb. 2 demonstration was called by the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions, SAK, which represents 1 million workers.

Union head Jarkko Eloranta told the rally they had reluctantly supported the Competitiveness Pact, but part of the deal was government promises not to touch unemployment pay.

Union officials waited to call the demonstration until after the anti-working-class legislation had gone into effect.