Poll suggests nation divided over gov't dismissal plan, union strikes

One of the most contentious issues in the Finnish political arena this autumn has been the centre-right government's proposal that would make it easier for companies with less than 10 employees to fire workers. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has linked the plan to his push to improve employment figures, saying that that the move would encourage microbusiness owners to hire more people.

The Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle commissioned a public opinion poll to assess the opinion of the country's residents on the issue.

The survey suggests that 46 percent of Finland's residents are against the proposal, with 41 percent in support.

Several unions staged a 24-hour walkout in early October in opposition to the proposal, and a ban on overtime and shift swaps is still underway in some sectors. The labour groups maintain that having a separate set of rules for small companies will create an unequal working environment in Finland.

Public opinion on the union protests is almost as divided as it is on the government proposal. Poll results suggest that 52 percent of Finnish residents approve of the industrial action, while 41 percent oppose it.

Women more opposed to firing bill than men

The Yle-commissioned poll revealed clear differences between women and men on both issues. Only one-third of women support the plan to ease firing, while half of the responding men supported it. When the question was framed another way, 51 percent of women said they were opposed to the government's plan and 41 percent of men said likewise.

When it came to striking unions, women were more supportive than men once again, with 57 of the females responding to the poll saying that they supported unions' right to engage in political strikes, and just one-third of women saying they were against the idea. Among the male poll respondents, 49 percent said that they did not accept labour groups engaging in political walkouts, and 46 percent did.

When examined by political party affiliation, the poll results were as could be expected for both the government plan and the strikes, but differences were also apparent in terms of the labour market position of the respondents.

Only one-third of respondents who identified themselves as wage earners or unemployed supported the government proposal, while 51 percent of pensioners agreed with the Sipilä plan. Three-quarters of entrepreneurs supported easing firing policy in small firms, with only one-fifth of this business owner group saying they opposed.

Business leaders don't accept political strikes

When it comes to politically-motivated union strikes, 70 percent of business managers and 60 percent of entrepreneurs said they did not accept them. Over half of white-collar workers in general also felt this way.

The most support for union industrial action in the poll came from the unemployed (72 percent), wage earners (66 percent) and students (57 percent).

Additional questions on how political strike action from Finland's unions should be curtailed saw respondents' lack of acceptance recede, however. Only one in ten of the poll's respondents would do away with the labour organisations' right to engage in industrial action altogether.

More than one-third of the respondents agreed that the current system is satisfactory, and that labour organisations should be allowed to protest during working hours.

The survey was conducted as an internet panel, and the sample is representative of the adult population of Finland, weighted by age, gender and place of residence. The pollster reached out to 1,377 respondents from 12-15 October, leading to results with a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points in either direction.

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