The Industrial Union EU election targets


The upcoming European elections are relevant for Finnish industry and industrial workers, as regulations that are central to the operating conditions of industries are increasingly decided at the EU level. A growing proportion of labour market regulations, improvements in working life and minimum working conditions also come from EU regulations.

Finland depends on industry. The ongoing twin transition to a digital and green economy presents a historic opportunity for Finnish industry to create new growth. At the same time, the twin transition also poses significant risks if companies fail to take advantage of the new opportunities.

Europe depends on industry. The EU must be able to more effectively enable the creation of new industrial jobs in the Union than today. This includes promoting the twin digital and green transition, developing strategic autonomy, and looking after workers’ professional skills. Europe’s existing strengths need to be used more effectively.

The EU also needs to be able to do more to enable a predictable and stable environment for industry that encourages investment in new technologies and growth. Energy and material efficiency and more efficient use of new digital innovations and data are the keys to building European wellbeing.

At the same time, the green transition and the fight against climate change are becoming an increasingly important aspect of European industrial policy. The green transition is a necessity, a challenge and an opportunity all at once. The transition must be fair, respectful of employees’ position and human conditions.

The European elections are relevant for the Finnish labour market and Finnish employees. The EU initiates negotiations for members to join the Union. If implemented, the EU’s enlargement will have a significant impact on the position of workers in both Finland and other EU countries. Joining the EU is also has significance for employees in new member state.

Dialogue between labour market organisations and the inclusion of employees are an important part of the European Pillar of Social Rights. As European labour and economic structures are undergoing major changes, the importance of dialogue needs to be emphasised. Dialogue has an important role in navigating future changes. Consequently, it is necessary to promote the readiness of labour market organisations to engage in collective bargaining and ongoing dialogue, support the collective bargaining system and increase the scope of collective agreements throughout the European Union.

In particular, the collective bargaining system, dialogue and worker participation must play a significant role in the negotiation processes related to new countries joining the EU.

Industrial Union’s messages for the upcoming European elections:

  • Promotion of the green transition must be continued, and climate targets must be upheld. At the same time, a fair transition must be ensured.
  • The EU’s regulations on state aid must revert to the rules in place before the pandemic.
  • The adoption of new technologies must be supported by the promotion of R&D&I (research, development and innovation) and by reforming regulations – the target level for R&D&I investments must be set at 4% of the European Union’s GDP.
  • Strategic autonomy must be strengthened by working to eliminate dependencies that are harmful to the EU and by improving the EU’s crisis resilience. At the same time, the functioning of the internal market must be ensured.
  • Corporate sustainability legislation must be approved and its national implementation ensured.
  • Working conditions, terms of employment and legal protection of platform workers must be ensured by the Platform Work Directive and national legislation. Employees’ rights must be guaranteed to everyone whose work meets the characteristics of an employment relationship.
  • The position of labour market organisations in the development of the labour market and in ensuring the enforcement of workers’ rights and the fundamental rights of the EU must be recognised. The right of workers to collectively negotiate their terms of employment must be strengthened.
  • The enforcement of terms of employment for work-based immigrants must be improved, and wage dumping of work-based immigrants must be prevented.
  • Enforcement of the EU’s minimum working life standards must be a prerequisite for EU membership. The position of trade unions and the bipartite and tripartite development of the labour market system must be taken into account in the negotiation processes. Labour market organisations must given a key role in confirming the criteria for membership. Restrictions on workers and trade unions related to the war in Ukraine must be ended prior to the acceptance of membership.

Green and fair transition

In the coming parliamentary term, it is essential to continue the policy of Von der Leyen’s Commission on the strong promotion of the green transition in the EU. The European Union must enable companies to implement the green transition, which especially means the promotion of green investments and market-based solutions.

Compromises on climate policy objectives should not be made at the EU level. This is important not only for the climate and the environment, but also for the competitiveness of Finnish industry.

Clean energy sources and a functioning electrical market must be promoted to strengthen the prerequisites for the green transition.

National characteristics must be taken into account in decision-making at the European level. For Finland, this means in particular that decisions relating to the use of forests must continue to be made nationally.

Safeguarding a fair transition is important to ensuring the competitiveness of European industry in the future. Education and training play a key role in this regard. As competence requirements change, it is essential to ensure that there are sufficient resources for additional and conversion training of workers and that training processes are effective and accessible.

Ensuring a fair transition at the European level requires that the voice of workers is heard in preparation and decision-making processes. In addition, EU subsidies for the green transition must be conditional on social criteria to safeguard the position of workers in the subsidised companies.

The green transition must be strongly promoted at the European level and the climate targets must be adhered to, but the transition must be implemented socially fairly and cannot unreasonably burden the livelihoods and purchasing power of employees. This is essential to securing the widest possible support and approval for the transition among European citizens and employees.

Competition for state aid

In regulations on state aid, the EU must revert to the rules in place before the pandemic. Safeguarding the operation of an open and functioning internal market is critical for Finland and the future of the EU. Government subsidies that distort competition have the effect of taking the EU in the wrong direction.

Regulations on state aid must take into account the requirements of the green transition, but the starting point should be a critical approach to direct state aid.

The criteria for receiving state aid must take into account protections on the status and rights of workers in the subsidised companies.

Digitalisation, data economy and artificial intelligence

Digitalisation in its various forms is crucial for the modernisation of industry. By promoting digitalisation and the use of data and supporting the deployment of other new technologies, it is possible to enable industrial companies to grow new business and strengthen the competitiveness of European industry.

Regulation should continue to be the “superpower” of the EU. However, regulations need to enable new business to be created and contribute to strengthening the operating conditions of existing companies in the twin digital and green transition.

In practice, this means that the EU must actively promote the use of data and the creation of functioning digital internal markets. At the same time, fair competition and the realisation of the rights of individuals must be ensured.

The adoption of new technologies such as AI and quantum computing must be promoted by supporting R&D&I activities and through regulations that enable the development of new business in a sustainable and responsible way.

In promoting the adoption of AI and quantum computing, the impact of the new technologies on the legal protection of workers and citizens and the internal and external security of Member States must be taken into account.

Strategic autonomy

In the changed European security environment, strategic autonomy is a positive mindset in terms of the future of the EU and the operating conditions of industry and should be promoted at the EU level. In a mutually interdependent world, the EU cannot and must not be disconnected from global supply chains. Strategic autonomy should therefore focus on safeguarding key vulnerabilities.

It is important for the safety and security of supply of both industry and Europe as a whole that the the availability and effectiveness of critical materials and technologies are ensured in the EU under all circumstances.

In the coming parliamentary term, it is important to continue the work of the current Commission in strengthening the EU’s strategic autonomy. At the same time, it must be ensured that strategic autonomy does not become an excuse to promote protectionism and national interests.

Strategic autonomy should mean strengthening the long-term operating conditions and resilience of the EU and Member States. This also helps safeguard the long-term operating conditions of Finnish industry.

Research, development and innovation

Research and development activities are at the heart of the competitiveness of the EU and Member States. Only by investing in expertise and R&D&I can the EU succeed in global competition in the long term. Stronger investments in R&D&I activities are necessary at the European level.

More EU funds should be allocated to R&D activities than at present, and the target level of investments should be increased to 4% of the EU’s GDP from the current 3%.

Corporate sustainability

The European Parliament passed the Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence in June 2023. The next step are trilogue negotiations between the European Parliament, the Commission and Member States. The legislation is intended to enter into force in the next 3-4 years.

Companies have a significant role and responsibility in the realisation of human rights around the world. This is especially important for the realisation of workers’ rights. Promoting corporate sustainability also levels the playing field between companies and ensures that infringements of workers’ rights or negligence of environmental issues do not become an unhealthy competitive advantage. It reduces the abuse of workers and infringement of labour rights and helps even out competition between Member States.

In the form approved by the European Parliament, the Directive would impose a due diligence obligation for companies. According to this, companies would be required to identify, prevent, reduce and, if necessary, stop activities that negatively impact the environment and human rights. Member States are required to ensure adequate regulatory oversight and the possibility for injured parties to claim compensation from companies that have violated their obligations.

The Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence must be approved. Corporate sustainability must be taken from voluntary action to legislation that is binding on companies and Member States. Appropriate and rapid national implementation of the Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence must be ensured during the next parliamentary term.

Platform economy

The platform economy is a growing phenomenon in the labour market. In 2022, more than 28 million workers in the European Union were employed in the platform economy. It is estimated that by 2025, this figure could be as high as 43 million workers. Platform work is expanding to more and more industries. Within the Industrial Union’s organised sectors, platform work affects delivery personnel, among other workers.

From the perspective of workers, the main problem with the platform economy is the unclear nature of the employment relationship. Is the person performing platform work self-employed or actually an employee? The European Commission has estimated that there could be as many as over five million employees whose employment status has been misidentified.

Platform employers almost always classify workers as self-employed. In most European countries, this means that workers do not have access to occupational health and safety services, collective bargaining or social security on the basis of an employment relationship.

In 2021, the European Commission issued a proposal for a Directive to improve working conditions in platform work. Negotiations on the Directive are currently underway in the trilogue between the Commission, Parliament and Member States.

The legal protection, working conditions and terms of employment of platform workers must be protected by European and national legislation that prevents the misidentification of employment relationships. All workers who are factually employees must be ensured the protections afforded by an employment relationship and collective agreements. The progress, completion and national implementation of the Directive on platform work must be ensured.

Transformation of labour markets

One of the fundamental principles of the European Union is that competition in the internal markets cannot be in the form of weakening workers’ rights. Because of this, the EU has imposed minimum terms of employment. In recent years, regulations have been adopted to improve the rights and status of workers. As the labour market changes, this work becomes increasingly important. The Union’s Treaties have established the importance of labour market organisations as the starting point for ensuring the rights of workers and developing the internal markets.

During the five-year parliamentary term starting in 2024, it is important to bring up the autonomy of labour market organisations, the importance of dialogue and the need to strengthen the position of trade unions. It is important to recognise the role and importance of labour market organisations, both in terms of the development of internal markets and the enforcement of European fundamental rights. In Finland, as attempts are underway to weaken the importance of labour market organisations, it becomes more crucial than ever to emphasise their role at the European level.

The mobility of workers and increased work-based immigration involve the phenomenon of social dumping. This definition covers a number of intentionally wrongful practices that enable fraudulent competition at the expense of workers’ rights. These practices have economic, social and tax implications. Practices such as undeclared work and disguised employment distort competition between companies and cause harm to responsible businesses. In particular, they harm all workers, from work-based immigrants to other workers in the affected country. Social dumping is a phenomenon that undermines the rights and terms of employment of all workers.

To ensure functioning internal markets, it is essential that the European Union takes measures to reduce the abuse of workers and social dumping and ensure that the free movement of labour is not abused by infringing on workers’ rights and terms of employment.

The importance of labour market organisations in the realisation of workers’ rights and the fundamental rights of the EU must be recognised. Dialogue between labour market organisations and their role in the development of the labour market must be increased. The right of employees to collectively negotiate their terms of employment must be strengthened, and the universality of collective agreements must be increased throughout the EU. Fair terms of employment must be ensured for work-based immigrants, and social dumping must be prevented.

EU enlargement

In December 2023, the European Union decided to begin membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova. During the membership talks, the applicant state takes steps to prepare the national implementation of European laws and standards. Other potential future member states currently include Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The introduction of membership talks with new countries means that the enlargement of the EU will become one of the most important issues of the next parliamentary term. The inclusion of new member states will also result in major changes in the European labour market.

As membership talks progress, it is important to pay attention to and ensure that new members meet the membership criteria, especially in terms of the status of trade union status and workers’ rights. Applicant countries must meet the minimum standards of European labour law before the membership can be approved. In this process, the labour market organisations of both current EU Member States and the applicant country play an important role.

Particularly in the case of Ukraine, attention should be paid to the rights of workers and the operating conditions of trade unions. Following the invasion by Russia in 2022, the rights and terms of employment of workers were curtailed in Ukraine. Collective agreements were discontinued for a significant proportion of the workforce. In addition, the government of Ukraine has proposed restrictions on workers’ right to strike. The European Commission has taken note of the matter as part of Ukraine’s eligibility for membership. The Commission requires Ukraine to develop its labour legislation and bipartite and tripartite labour market system. This also means strengthening the status of trade unions.

Compromises on the minimum European labour standards cannot be accepted as part of the membership requirements of new member states. Labour market organisations should play an essential role in the process of assessing and verifying that new members meet the requirements.

During and after the membership process, it is important to pay attention to the development of the labour market system according to a bipartite and tripartite model, as well as to the status of trade unions and their factual operating conditions.

The restrictions on workers and trade unions related to the war in Ukraine must be ended prior to the acceptance of Ukraine’s membership.