The 500

May Day is a traditional speechifying date in Finnish politics. This year the number one topic were the prospects for the next comprehensive incomes policy agreement. By most accounts the prospects are quite slim; labour unions and employers' unions are quite far apart in their wishes. The left-wing opposition blames the government's insufficient willpower. The government, while vowing to work toward an agreement, blames the other negotiating parties for not agreeing.

An added twist is an at-times heated debate over what precisely did the right-wing National Coalition Party promise in its election campaign when it talked of a special equality incomes policy agreement. I realize that the "shifty politicians betray their promise to nurses" is a better storyline (fi) than "politicians try to do what little they said they would". Nevertheless, for the sake of accuracy, the National Coalition Party is correct when they say that they didn't promise to raise nurses' salaries by 500 euros.

The Iltalehti tabloid asked all parties about the statement "Nurses' basic monthly salary must be raised by at least 500 euros". Representing the Coalition, party secretary Taru Tujunen answered yes, but explained that this can't be done in one go. Such a promise doesn't mean much - if we wait for an arbitrary amount of time, of course nurses' salaries will go up by 500 euros - but that really is what she said. Asking about it from the party's parliamentary faction chairman, Pekka Ravi, who apparently knows very little (fi) about the topic, doesn't change the facts.

Having written all that, I do understand why there is debate on the matter. The Coalition didn't try very hard to make clear what it is they were actually promising. If you bothered to look, you could figure it out, but I bet many people were under the impression that the Coalition would raise nurses' salaries no matter what the result of the incomes policy negotiations. Whether that was an intended consequence is more difficult to judge.

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