Government must clarify position on university competitiveness

16.8.2016

PRESS RELEASE 16 August 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Finland’s Professors and Researchers:

Government must clarify position on university competitiveness

The Finnish Union of University Professors and the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers are calling on the government to reverse the EUR 13.9 million cuts to university funding proposed in the Ministry of Finance draft budget.

-Assurances had previously been provided that no further cuts would be imposed on higher education institutions. The draft budget is in flagrant breach of this undertaking, as the professors’ and university teachers’ union points out.

According to the Ministry of Finance, the cuts are being imposed as a result of the so-called Competitiveness Pact. The pact states that the cost savings secured through increased working hours and reductions in holiday pay entitlements for public sector workers would be used to reduce employer costs. According to the Ministry of Finance definition, universities are classed as public sector institutions.

- It is simply wrong that Finland’s universities are being made to suffer due their “odd” status. They are largely funded by central government yet the collective labour agreement for university staff is negotiated with the Confederation of Finnish Businesses. As it stands, the government is engaged in a cherry picking exercise, whereby universities will suffer cuts aimed at both the public and private sectors, the unions say.

In their responses to the draft budget, the Association of Finnish Independent Education Employers (AFIEE) and the Confederation of Finnish Business have already dismissed this aspect of the draft budget as not in line with the previously agreed Competitiveness Pact.
"It is the view of the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers and the Finnish Union of University Professors that Finland’s universities operate in an open system and are subject to the forces of the wider international science and education markets. As such, they must also be entitled to the reliefs designed to facilitate economic competitiveness in Finland.

- These additional cuts are entirely disproportionate to those imposed on other organisations operating internationally and on the open labour market,” Kaarle Hämeri, Chairman of the Finnish Union of University Professors states.

-"As university staff have already faced sweeping changes to their working arrangements following redundancies, the termination of temporary posts and other funding cuts, it was a genuine expectation on our part that the Competitiveness Pact would also apply to us, "Petri Koikkalainen, Chairman of the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers, added.   
 
The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Education and Culture are due to commence budget negotiations on 17 August. The budget is expected to be finalised on 31 August.
 
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Kaarle Hämeri, Chairman (Finnish Union of University Professors), +358 (0)40 568 4487;
Petri Koikkalainen, Chairman (Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers), +358 (0)50 544 7442;
Tarja Niemelä, General Manager (Finnish Union of University Professors), +358 (0)50 3402 725;
Eeva Rantala, General Manager (Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers), +358 (0)40 7508 284.