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Position statement on the PAM Target Programme -   13-02-2019

The new operating environment described in the Target Programme is anything but new. Our PAM-Lingua branch has been specifically operating and campaigning under these conditions throughout its entire 35-year history. Way back in the 1980s it was more the rule than the exception for our members to have several employers or other sources of paid work. This was often even because the members were not keen to give anyone so much power over their income in a labour market with such a proliferation of unreliable providers of work and earnings. There was also a deliberate trend among our members to become self-employed in order to achieve at least some degree of independence and predictability in their own working lives. We should note in passing that our membership consisted almost entirely of immigrants long before there was any genteel discussion of a diversifying membership.

It is the opinion of our branch that there is more need for unions to improve and change their practices due to the present operating environment than for any reform in public administration. This is very much about trade union practices, and even about fundamentally modernising those practices. It is important to realise that the activities of trade unions, especially those belonging to the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), are still strictly based on the conventional employment relationship concluded between an employer and an employee. The very concept of a trade union is even defined in terms of an organisation that can be a party to collective bargaining for the specific purpose of setting minimum terms and conditions on employment relationships in a certain sector of the labour market. This is as much a key element in the activities of a trade union as the status of the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church. It’s not something that can be changed easily.

In psychological terms this means that the union understands all problems related to the activities of someone doing work from the point of view of conventional employment, and does not even recognise such problems insofar as they cannot be forced into the conventional framework of employment. In concrete terms, on the other hand, it means that people working outside of a conventional employment relationship receive virtually no help or other services from their trade union, nor accordingly do they receive anything in return for their membership subscription payment.

At least the SAK trade union movement has accordingly responded to the evolution of the working world chiefly by insisting that all service relationships should be primarily regarded as employment. The reason for this must in part surely be that trade unions have been unable to develop services for members working outside of employment relationships. Instead it appears that unions have at most only been able to notify such members that the largely gratuitous subscription payment would be determined on the basis of the earned income calculated for pension purposes.

Obviously the non-existent services and lack of any consideration for the membership subscription are not advertised in advance, and instead the member has to experience these only when in the throes of some problem when no benefits are paid and no legal aid is granted.

The Target Programme accordingly notes that the future members of PAM may be employee treated as workers in employment relationships. That is, unless there is some fundamental reform of union practices.

Sole traders receive virtually no union core services, as they are not working in employment relationships at all. At most the union can be a club or networking venue for these members.

Our branch has long operated mainly in this way, so that the practical knowledge of more experienced members remains available to younger and less experienced members. The more experienced members also assist in accessing the services of the parent union where necessary, especially when recently arrived immigrants and migrant workers run into difficulties. We accordingly would like to see at least some associate union membership status for sole traders of this kind, which might include such features as union publications and access to online services. Efforts could also be made to broaden the scope of associated membership benefits to include such members.

Services that the union could provide specifically for sole traders might include various collection, bookkeeping and advisory or training services for small businesses, and occupational organisation services insofar as permitted under antitrust legislation. The union could also lobby more broadly to defend the competition law rights of sole traders. The union would not need to provide individual services in house, but could negotiate their terms and conditions with external service providers and oversee their quality.

Freelancer is an expression that varies in meaning according to the circumstances when it is used. Purchasers of labour in particular tend to use this term when seeking to stress that the employee will not enjoy employment rights in all respects. Less frequently employees may also use this term to emphasise their unwillingness to become too dependent on the labour purchaser in question. The tax authorities chiefly use the expression to indicate that a taxpayer has several sources of earned income. In legal terms, the employee is part-time and the employment may also be temporary. We feel that the union could exercise stronger oversight to ensure that the part-time and temporary character of this employment is genuinely based on the wishes of the employee as far as possible. This oversight should also be proactive, meaning that action is taken before any concrete rights have been denied.

A platform worker is someone whose source of earned income is an online service platform. The purchaser of labour will not necessarily even be established within the European Economic Area or fall within the jurisdiction of the courts in Finland. There is no effective way to contest such an operation through the courts, but it is at least possible to influence its reputation through the information and publication work of the trade union movement.

It is our view that PAM should investigate, establish and launch a modernisation process that would enlarge the work of the union to genuinely influence and tackle relationships in which remunerated work is done without conventional employment. The practical knowledge that our branch has acquired over the years will be made available to the union in any such modernisation process.

Palvelualojen ammattiliitto PAM ry Ammattiosasto 664


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