Trains at Helsinki Central on Tuesday, 7 March 2023. A locomotive driver strike threatens to bring virtually all freight and passenger rail services to a screeching halt in Finland as of Monday, 20 March. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)


A STRIKE is increasingly likely to disrupt rail services in Finland as of Monday, reports YLE.

Railway Union Finland (RAU) on Thursday announced that its representatives have rejected the settlement negotiated by its negotiating council and Service Sector Employers (Palta), increasing the likelihood of a locomotive driver strike that is to halt the vast majority of railway traffic in the country as of Monday, 20 March.

All commuter and long-distance passenger rail services would come to a screeching halt until the labour market organisations reach an agreement on the terms and conditions of locomotive drivers. Rail freight traffic, in turn, would stop with the sole exception of traffic that is deemed critical for security of supply.

The National Conciliator on Thursday assured that it will continue to explore avenues to reach an agreement before Monday.

Tero Palomäki, the chairperson at RAU, said to the Finnish public broadcasting service that the union members were disappointed particularly by the non-inclusion of elements that would promote their occupational well-being.

“We’ll look for a way out from the negotiations that’d make the strike unnecessary. We’ll continue the discussions at 8am tomorrow,” he said.

He argued that the proposal presented by the union is not terribly costly but deals primarily with questions related to occupational well-being, such as rests between shifts and shift patterns that grant employees more consecutive days off.

“It isn’t an unreasonable demand as far as demands go, and you can’t put a price tag on it. The proposal isn’t about money,” viewed Palomäki.

Palta on Thursday expressed its dismay at the rejection of the negotiated settlement, stating that it raises the question whether the trade union is negotiating genuinely to reach an agreement. Tuomas Aarto, the managing director of Palta, said the revisions presented by the union would constitute an agreement that exceeds the so-called general line.

“The rejected attempts to reach a settlement have been in line with the general line. We’ve tried to compromise as much as possible,” he said.

Aarto said it is impossible to predict whether or not the strikes will go through.

YLE on Thursday wrote that the key bones of contention in the negotiations include dividing the cost of parental leaves between employers and employees and provisions on occupational well-being. National Conciliator Anu Sajavaara has led an effort to resolve the labour dispute since late February.

VR, the state-owned railway company in Finland, confirmed to the public broadcasting service yesterday that if the drivers follow through with the strike people should resort to other modes of transport than railways. None of the long-distance trains cancelled due to the strike would be replaced with coach services, it added.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT