SAK labour federation launches more strikes next week in Finland

The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), which has been organising political strikes since last autumn, announced new walkouts on Wednesday.

It said that a new wave of industrial actions will begin next Monday, and continue for up to two weeks. Details of some strikes are to be announced later on Wednesday.

According to SAK president Jarkko Eloranta, the strikes will be significant and impactful.

“They will affect exports, imports, logistics, maybe even production facilities,” Eloranta said.

The leaders of SAK members, the Industrial Union, the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL), the Finnish Transport Workers’ Union (AKT) and the Finnish Electrical Workers’ Union took part in a press conference on Wednesday morning.

AKT stevedores will go on strikes at 6am on Monday, shutting down all freight traffic at the nation’s ports for up to two weeks. Passenger traffic will operate as normal.

According to the AKT’s Ismo Kokko, the strike could be halted if an agreement is reached with the government.

Measures that could endanger life, health or property will be excluded from industrial action, the unions said.

More announcements to come

The Industrial Union announced its own two-week strikes around midday. According to union boss Riku Aalto, the walkouts are aimed at heavy industry. Some 4,000 workers will participate.

The job actions will hit six Neste facilities, two each owned by Outokumpu and SSAB, and one by Okmetic.

The Electrical Workers’ Union is also to reveal details of its involvement later in the day.

JHL strikes, meanwhile, will affect freight transport by rail as well as port operations in various parts of Finland. About 1,000 workers will down tools.

“They will apply to rail traffic and port employees. On the rail side, the actions will bring interruptions or halts to freight traffic,” said JHL president Håkan Ekström.

All SAK unions will be involved, at least financially, and other unions may stage solidarity actions, said Eloranta.

SAK: Friday meeting too narrow

On Tuesday, Eloranta said that the government has not made any moves toward meeting wage-earners halfway in the ongoing labour market disputes.

The government plans to implement a large number of labour market reforms and social security cuts, which trade unions fiercely oppose. These include limiting the right to strike, promoting local bargaining through legislative changes, and cutting earnings-related unemployment insurance.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) has invited labour market groups to a meeting on Friday. The SAK said that such a discussion is insufficient because the government says that it will only focus on its new labour market model, the so-called export-led wage model, which unions say will limit wages in female-dominated sectors. The SAK is demanding genuine negotiations on other labour market reforms outlined by the government as well.

Employers’ lobby: “Very drastic and extremely regrettable”

Jyri Häkämies, director of the main employers’ group, the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), called the strike plans “very drastic and extremely regrettable,” adding that the cost would be “really heavy”.

According to Eloranta, the strikes could still be called off if the government softens its stand on labour legislation and local agreements.

Häkämies said that the government’s planned reforms “are not dramatic compared to [those in] competitor countries. The economic situation requires reforms, and no negotiation path has been reached in these matters,” the EK leader said.

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