Picketers in the terminal of Viking Line in Helsinki on Friday, 17 March 2023. A strike by cleaning and property management professionals expanded to cover roughly a dozen companies and 25,000 employees at midnight on Thursday, 23 March 2023. (Antti Hämäläinen – Lehtikuva)


A STRIKE by cleaning and property maintenance professionals was expanded at midnight from 2,500 to 25,000 employees following the collapse of collective bargaining negotiations between Service Union United (PAM) and Real Estate Employers (KITA), reports YLE.

The two labour market organisations failed to reach an agreement in bipartite talks yesterday afternoon, after a proposal by the national conciliator had been rejected by PAM.

The organisations have struggled to find common ground particularly on pay rises. While PAM had rejected the first settlement proposal on grounds that the percentage-based rise would not have benefited low-paid workers sufficiently, it also rejected the 91-euro raise offered in the last proposal as insufficient.

Annika Rönni-Sällinen, the chairperson at PAM, on Wednesday said the union is disappointed that it has to expand the strike but even more disappointed that there still seems to be no willingness to offer higher pay to employees in the low-paid industry.

The trade union went into the collective bargaining negotiations with the objective of raising monthly pay by 200 euros. “We’ve naturally come down from this, and we’re now talking about a raise of roughly a hundred for the first contract year,” she said to YLE.

Pia Gramén, the managing director of KITA, argued that the pay rises demanded by the union are unreasonable relative to the financial situation of the industry and companies. Even the 91-euro bump, she estimated, would be too high for the industry.

“It may look like we’re pretty close. But when you tally the cost effects, we’re pretty far apart,” she lamented to the public broadcaster.

Rönni-Sällinen told YLE that the union would re-examine the situation when the negotiations continue under the guidance of the national conciliator on Monday.

“Sooner or later an agreement is always found. The starting point for us is to try to find an agreement,” she assured.

The two-day strike is expected to have a widespread impact on cleaning and property maintenance services in Finland. Covering roughly a dozen service providers, it will not affect emergency and other societally critical services, surgical operations in special health care, the operations of nuclear power plants or food industry facilities where animals are slaughtered.

PAM has declared its readiness to stage a third strike unless a deal is reached by 30 March.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT