On Thursday 21 September, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) and its affiliated unions notified the Prime Minister Petteri Orpo and Finance Minister Riikka Purra of their plans to launch three weeks of political industrial action.
This is in opposition to the Finnish government’s new programme of social welfare cuts and worsened working conditions.
Rising living costs mean that workers are already struggling to make ends meet. They rely on adjusted employment benefits and housing allowances. The government’s new plans to cut unemployment benefits and reduce worker participation rights will hit workers even harder and will inevitably lead to a deterioration in wages, a cut in working hours and therefore working conditions.
We are concerned about the long-term structural impact this could have. The government is seeking to dismantle the current collective bargaining system. For example, its local collective bargaining package will bring an end to the generally binding character of national collective agreements. This is a clear attack on workers’ rights and social welfare.
IndustriAll Europe stands in full solidarity with our Finnish brothers and sisters. This attack on workers’ rights and welfare is unacceptable. An attack on one is an attack on all.
Unions started their coordinated action on Tuesday 26 September, with individual protests ranging from walkouts to various types of demonstrations organised across Finland over a three-week period. The industrial action will be limited to ensure that emergency work continues. The trade unions will always announce planned measures four days in advance.
Judith Kirton-Darling, Acting Joint General Secretary of industriAll Europe says:
“Strong and stable industrial relations have never been more important. We face multiple, simultaneous challenges and our industries are undergoing radical change as a result of geopolitical shifts, digitalisation and climate change. Strong collective bargaining is vital to ensure that these changes are anticipated and managed – it is both short-sighted and economically illiterate of the Finnish government to seek to weaken social dialogue and to gratuitously attack the trade union movement in this way.”
Isabelle Barthès, Acting Joint General Secretary of industriAll Europe says:
“It is shocking to see that in a country like Finland, where the social model has been so successful in both economic and social terms, the government is trying to destroy the basic ingredients of this successful social dialogue. Social dialogue is modern and capable of meeting today’s challenges. The Finnish government’s position is merely dogmatic and should be rejected. We fully support our Finnish affiliates in their struggle.”