Health care professionals walking along an aisle in Oulu University Hospital on 31 March 2022. (Timo Heikkala – Lehtikuva)

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FINNISH SOCIETY is in quite a situation if the central administration is indeed planning to tackle the nursing shortage with forced labour and statutory mandates, Millariikka Rytkönen, the chairperson of the Union of Social and Health Care Professionals in Finland (Tehy), stated to YLE on Wednesday.

“Nurses are used to mandatory laws, after all. The emergency powers act was in force for two years and now another mandatory law is on the way,” she said on A-studio.

Rytkönen revealed that nurses have expressed their readiness to withdraw their professional practice rights from the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira). “To protect themselves specifically from a situation where a bailiff knocks on their door and forces them to work under the threat of fine.”

Tehy and the Finnish Union of Practical Nurses (Super) have called meetings of their executive boards to mull over tougher measures, such as mass resignations, in their long-running labour dispute with Local Government and County Employers (KT). Rytkönen on Wednesday remained tight-lipped about the details of the planned action, including the number and timing of possible resignations.

KT has accused the two unions of refusing to provide vital care to clients and patients during the newly concluded strike.

Henrika Nybondas-Kangas, the director of collective bargaining at KT, told YLE that the difficult collective bargaining negotiations were preceded by months of discussions and conciliation.

“A week ago we resorted to an extremely unusual course of action. An advisory board was established specifically for this dispute. Their responsibility is to resolve what is a fairly complicated situation,” she outlined.

Established under the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the advisory board has invited the chief negotiators of both parties to the dispute to resume discussions about outstanding issues on Thursday.

Rytkönen reminded yesterday that if thousands of nurses resigned, the responsibility for patient safety would fall on the employer.

“A settlement is how this can be resolved. We’d like to find a solution to the nursing shortage together. It’s peculiar that nurses are [said to be] irreplaceable in Finnish society. But at the same time we’re so worthless that no one wants to pay us.”

Tehy last threatened employer organisations with mass resignations in 2007.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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