People waited for a bus in Suvela, Espoo, on Thursday, 2 March 2023. Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) on Saturday said its bus services should be fully restored by Monday, 6 March, following a disruption caused by a strike by the Finnish Transport Workers’ Union (AKT). (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


THE FINNISH Transport Workers’ Union (AKT) and Employers’ Federation of Road Transport (ALT) have reached an understanding on the terms and conditions of bus and coach drivers, putting an immediate end to the driver strike that began on Wednesday, 1 March.

Ismo Kokko, the chairperson at AKT, told YLE on Friday that the board of the trade union has unanimously approved the agreement negotiated with ALT.

“The strikes will end immediately. We’ve agreed that the return to work will happen as soon as possible, but no later than the first shift on Monday morning,” he stated to the public broadcasting company in the dying minutes of the day.

Kokko described the outcome as a reasonable compromise for drivers, with wage hikes equivalent to those thrashed out in other industries. The collective bargaining agreement entered into force immediately and will last until January 2025.

“There’ll be a total of four rises, and the rises will add up to about six per cent,” he said to the public broadcasting company. “Compromises are necessary every now and then, and we have to stand behind our own agreement.”

AKT was seeking not only a substantial increase in pay but also provisions that ease the burden of workdays for drivers, a demand the roughly 45,000-member union ultimately had to compromise on. It has been reported, for example, that drivers avoid drinking water due to poor access to bathroom breaks.

“We’ll also adopt a local bargaining system that allows shop stewards to reduce the time [employees] are bound to work. This is a step forward,” said Kokko.

Mari Vasarainen, the managing director of ALT, was pleased that the agreement put an end to the strikes.

“The solution wasn’t easy for us because the financial standing of bus companies is very challenging after the coronavirus years. Our board decided to carry responsibility in the current labour market situation when it comes to these agreements and approved negotiated outcomes that line up with the general line,” she stated to YLE.

“I’m particularly pleased that, together with AKT, we found tools with which we can develop the sector and improve the occupational well-being of bus drivers, and thereby increase the pull and retention factors of the sector.”

The bus and coach driver strike had an impact on both commuter and long-distance bus services across Finland since Wednesday, 1 March. Bus companies participating in the strike in the capital region, for example, were responsible for servicing 90 per cent of the routes of Helsinki Region Transport (HSL).

HSL on Saturday stated that bus services should be fully restored by Monday.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT