On the 16th of March, a second learning seminar was arranged in Vasa, Finland concerning third activity of LUBAT: restructuring in one-sided industrial towns. As previously reported on this blog, an initial seminar was carried through in the case study town of Kaskö on the 5th of October 2011. The first seminar gathered regional actors, mainly from the study region of Southern Ostrobothnia. This seminar was successful, identifying two main differences between the systems in the two countries greatly affecting restructuring in the case of Kaskö. I will return to these differences shortly. The purpose of arranging a second seminar around the same theme is the intention set up by the BA-institute and the LUBAT research project to in practice achieve transnational learning. The first seminar reached the first two levels of transnational learning: sharing of knowledge and evaluating the practices. The objective of the second seminar was to achieve the next step, to construct an archetype for a new practice for restructuring. To implement this, actors representing regional institutions were gathered, especially the Regional Council and the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY-centre).
The two main differences identified in the first seminar provided the basis for the discussions to the second seminar. The first issue was the difference in legislation regarding restructuring. The Norwegian legislation obligates the company to participate in discussions to solve the problems the close-down causes. The company must notify about the close-down thirty days in advance and offer industry facilities to the community. In the case of Kaskö, restructuring measures were significantly complicated due to a cautious attitude of the company in enabling the use of the factory facilities for future operations. The second difference concerns the regional approach to restructuring conducted in Norway. Kaskö and the surrounding municipalities in Southern Ostrobothnia have notoriously displayed difficulties to cooperate in developing the region. Raising the level of restructuring coordination to the regional level could prevent these difficulties.
Aiming at introducing these two innovations for restructuring in Finland, two LUBAT researchers - Åge Mariussen and Kenneth Nordberg - introduced the model of restructuring in Norway on the seminar. The presentations led to a constructive discussion about the possibility of introducing these ideas in the Finnish structure. Concerning the regional approach to restructuring, the seminar participants emphasized the role of the municipalities in the Finnish system above the regional level. However, the participants recognized the complicated situation in Southern Ostrobothnia, with municipalities competing for tax incomes instead of jointly developing the region. This situation is not regular in Finland, but the Finnish system allows for such disagreements on the local level. The participants expressed the importance of the municipal reformation, which is currently planning a major decrease in the number of municipalities in Finland. A merging of the municipalities in Southern Ostrobothnia would turn the competition for tax incomes irrelevant and allow for a larger organization to handle business development tasks. Regarding the second issue, the participants agreed that restructuring legislation is undeveloped in Finland. The legislation in Finland offers protection for employees, but the legislation does not concern protection for the community where the company is acting. Obligations on the company must be present to notify and cooperate, and to offer industry facilities for future operations.