A child playing at a kindergarten in Espoo in October 2018. A strike is set to close kindergartens operated by five privately owned care providers in Finland as of Tuesday, 23 May 2023. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)


STRIKES will hit 5 privately owned kindergarten chains and 26 around-the-clock care housing units for the elderly as of today after a failed attempt to reach an agreement on the terms and conditions of employment for employees in the private social care sector.

The strikes in kindergartens will last two days and those in care housing units until Saturday.

Strike warnings for this week have been issued by the Finnish Union of Practical Nurses (Super), Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland (Tehy), Federation of Special Service and Clerical Employees (Erto), Trade Union Jyty, Trade Union for Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL) and Union of Professional Social Workers (Talentia).

Unions have also voiced their readiness to strike next week if the labour dispute cannot be settled this week. The office of the national conciliator said yesterday the bargaining negotiations will continue on Friday.

YLE on Monday reported that the dispute stems fundamentally from differences of view on the extent of the pay gap between the private and public sectors. While both employer organisations and trade unions have committed to narrowing the gap, the raises offered by the employers have been rejected as insufficient.

“The minimum wages in the collective bargaining agreement for the private sector are lower and more readily in use than in the public sector. You should get the same pay for the same job,” Sanna Ängeslevä, the chief shop steward for Touhula in the Tampere region, summarised to YLE.

Employer organisations have estimated that their latest offer would amount to an 11.2-per-cent pay rise in the next two-and-a-half years, an estimate that has been questioned by unions.

“With the percentages we’ve been offered, there’d soon be no employees in the private sector. The wage gap is so notable,” commented Jukka Parkkola, a contract negotiator at Super.

Employers have argued that they cannot afford to improve their latest offer. Tuomas Mänttäri, the head of labour market affairs at the Finnish Association of Private Care Providers (Hali), said the current offer is already exceptionally high.

“We can’t make to a wage agreement that’s completely unfeasible in the sector’s economic situation,” he stated to YLE.

Parkkola also told that trade unions have expressed their willingness to discuss limiting the scope of the strikes, but the offer has not been taken up by Hali. Private care providers, he added, will seek to ensure customer safety by resorting to agency and temporary workers and having managerial staff cover for employees on strike.

“Our members will do whatever they can to avoid having to relocate the elderly [to other facilities],” he stated.

The collective bargaining agreement in the private social care sector covers more than 70,000 employees.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT