The salary programme could help correct the injustices that have arisen over the years. The claims of the employer side, for example, that the salary demands are unreasonable, do not stand up to closer scrutiny – it would be more unreasonable to not offset the existing salary increase debt. However, the implementation of the salary programme will likely also require input from the government.
OAJ's central demand in the collective agreement negotiations is the salary programme. Why is the salary programme so important, and why is it needed now?
1. A salary programme is needed to compensate for inequalities in pay
OAJ does not demand a salary programme for the salaries of public sector employees to develop more effectively than those of private sector employees. However, the current salaries of public sector employees are not even on the same level as those of private sector employees, and they are falling further and further behind. We demand a salary programme in order for the employer to rectify the salary increase debt that has arisen over the years.
The basic salaries in the education sector are too low and must be increased. Furthermore, there are injustices in the pay system itself, such as the different teaching obligations between teachers, the differences in summertime pay for fixed-term employees and the differences in the holiday periods for vocational teachers. Neither can be corrected without a clear and agreed programme devised together with the employer as well as additional temporary separate funding from the state.
Differentiation for the benefit of those working in the private sector has been going on for decades. When examining the change in salary levels in the private and public sectors, for example, since 1995, it can be seen that a person working in the private sector received better compensation per hours worked than a person working in the public sector – and that disparity has only increased year on year.
2. A salary programme has been implemented in the past and can also be implemented now
The idea of a salary programme is nothing new – it has been done in the past and can also be done now. In order to halt further salary differentiation, salary programmes were implemented in the public sector in 2004 and 2007, which resulted in an additional 4 per cent increase in salaries.
While these increases did not close the pay gap that had emerged in the span of a little over ten years, they did at least help to halt further widening of the pay gap.
3. A salary programme will not lead to economic collapse – without one, the effects on the economy can be devastating
Neither of the previous salary programmes resulted in a collapse of the public economy or an increase in the tax rates. On the contrary, they helped to ensure that even during the global economic downturn, we had skilled and highly educated teachers working for us to emerge from the recession as a competent and civilised Finland.
Six out of ten teachers are now considering a career change, and, in addition to the excessive workload and stress, pay is one of the main reasons behind this. The work of teachers produces competence and education, and Finland will need more and more highly skilled workers in the coming years. Without competent teachers, we do not have doctors, electricians, nurses, engineers or researchers. Without competent teachers, we can forget any hopes we had for future economic growth.
4. The keys to the solution are in the hands of employers and the government
Throughout the 2000s, the salary increase percentages in collective agreement negotiations have been quite similar both in the public and private sectors. This being the case, what is the reason for the increased disparity in salaries?
The answer can be found in the reluctance of the municipalities to use so-called salary drifting – for example, to pay higher salaries than what has been listed in the agreements in sectors where there is a shortage of employees. Municipalities therefore expect the alarming shortage of teachers in early childhood education to resolve on its own rather than attempting to attract competent employees at a slightly higher salary. However, this does happen in other sectors.
In the private sector, salary drifting is commonplace, so the cause of salary differentiation is something that mainly concerns municipalities. Correcting salary developments cannot be left up to the voluntary corrective measures of municipalities, which is why the salary programme must be agreed at the national level.
We must look not only to the municipal employer, but also to the Finnish Government. It does not seem like the question of the salary programme will be solved unless funding is allocated to the salary programme in the Government’s mid-term policy review session. While the resolution is up to the employer, the issue concerns Finland as a whole. Despite the strong financial statements of the municipalities, the municipal sector employer does not have an additional salary increase reserve available. Instead, additional funding from the state is required for the implementation of the salary programme.
5. The efforts of teachers during exceptional situations deserve recognition
Public sector employees have had to make considerable efforts to ensure the functioning of society during exceptional situations.
Throughout the recession and pandemic, teachers have done valuable work both for individuals and society as a whole and, in a way, built up a debt for salary increases at the same time.
The time to repay that debt is now – the time for the salary programme is now.
Public sector employees are a fundamental source of wellbeing, equality, competence and education for society as a whole. We are not calling for the impossible, but simply for fairness in rectifying the long-standing inequalities in salary development.
Kuva: Leena Koskela