A cashier at work at a Prisma hypermarket in Kannelmäki, Helsinki, in December 2018. Workers in more than 160 grocery shops, mostly large supermarkets, are to go on strike for 48 hours at 5am on Thursday, 9 February 2023. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


SERVICE UNION UNITED (PAM) on Tuesday declared that it will stage the first in a series of strikes in supermarkets and logistics centres this week following the collapse of negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement.

The strike will cover more than 160 grocery shops, mostly large supermarkets, and 16,000 workers from 5am on Thursday, 9 February, to 5am on Saturday, 11 February.

“PAM and the Finnish Commerce Federation remain far apart in their views – also on other questions than remuneration,” Annika Rönni-Sällinen, the chairperson at PAM, stated in a press release on Tuesday.

The trade union is continuing to pursue a roughly 200-euro increase in pay.

The Finnish Commerce Federation stated in its press release that it presented several proposals to settle the dispute, including one that would have guaranteed low-paid cashiers raises that exceed the so-called general pay rise. The federation also said it was willing to make a number of concessions and discuss developing the remuneration system of cashiers in line with the objectives of PAM.

“Reforms require firm common willingness, mutual commitment and trust, and those cannot be built by striking,” said Anna Lavikkala, the head of labour market affairs at the Commerce Federation.

It remains unclear how many of the supermarkets will be able to remain open by utilising managerial staff and on-demand employees.

“Companies will surely try to keep their doors open with managerial staff, on-demand workers and by pressuring staff to work. Employees are ready to fight for better wages, though. So I can’t estimate how many shops will be closed, how many will limit their opening hours and so on,” Risto Kalliorinne, the organisation director at PAM, stated to Helsingin Sanomat on Tuesday.

The Commerce Federation has assured that the strike should cause no food shortages.

Sampo Päällysaho, the director of grocery trade at S Group, said to the daily newspaper that the priority for the retail chain is to keep its shops open also during the strike, admitting that some may have to do so using fewer cash registers and limited opening hours.

“The two-day strike could have some effects on our operations and, in the case of individual shops, on the product selection,” he told, stressing that he does not recognise the claim that employees would be pressured to work during the strike.

“We respect workers’ right to strike,” he underlined.

The strike will be the first in a series of industrial action targeted at grocery shops and the logistics centres serving them.

On 13 February, a days-long work stoppage is set to start at logistics centres. The stoppage is set to expand to cover more than 400 grocery shops and 26,000 workers for the three days between 16 and 18 February. A strike targeting logistics centres is scheduled to start on 20 February, after it was postponed by two weeks by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

The collective bargaining agreement in the sector expired on 31 January. The office of the national conciliator estimated yesterday that the parties to the dispute remain so far apart in their views that presenting a settlement proposal is unrealistic, despite some progress on the agreement text. The national conciliator will next contact the parties to determine when the negotiations could continue.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT