Jarkko Eloranta, the chairperson of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), announced a series of industrial actions in protest of the government’s labour market reforms and spending cuts at a news conference in Helsinki on Tuesday, 31 October 2023. Eloranta warned that if the one-day strikes announced yesterday will not have the desired effect, trade unions are prepared to ratchet up industrial actions. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


THE CENTRAL ORGANISATION of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) on Tuesday announced it will stage a series of strikes lasting up to a day as of next week.

“We will bring production facilities to a halt. I am sure it will cause costs and harm. There is no way to avoid that this time,” Jarkko Eloranta, the chairperson of SAK, was quoted saying at a press conference on Tuesday by YLE.

Both Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) and Minister of Finance Riikka Purra have been notified of the strikes starting on Tuesday, 8 November, according to Eloranta.

The strikes are an attempt to prompt the government to withdraw its labour market reforms and spending cuts on, for example, social security benefits. Eloranta stated to the public broadcasting company that it has been obvious from the start of the electoral term that the government is creating benefits exclusively to employers and high-income earners.

“[The government programme] is filled with the wishes of businesses and the wealthy. Now it’s time to listen to others,” he said.

Riku Aalto, the chairperson of the Industrial Union, echoed the assessment in a press release, arguing that the spending cuts are not necessary measures taken after careful consideration but value-based decisions that target employees.

“Orpo and Purra’s play-book is clear about why the government is first urgently restricting the right to strike. First it is trying to silence criticism, then force through changes that erode Finnish labour markets,” he said.

Eloranta described the strikes as the “final warning”.

“We’ve got a large group of people who feel that the government’s measures are unfair. People are becoming increasingly annoyed,” he stated to YLE. “We’re constantly getting messages about why we aren’t already taking stronger action.”

“We’ll protect the position of employees before the government strips us of the right to take industrial action,” he added. “I’m pleading with the central government. Don’t divide the Finnish public. There’s still an opportunity to look for a balance and cohesion.”

He declined to speculate on the measures that could be taken if the strikes fail to have the desired outcome but warned in the press release that society is currently drifting toward “widespread social conflict” as a result of “biased, unfair and, from the employee perspective, arrogant” policy measures.

The Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK), meanwhile, will organise a demonstration against the reforms pursued by the government at the Kansalaistori Square in Helsinki on 18 November.

“We are witnessing a time of unprecedentedly fast degradation of working life and security. Our members’ concern for their well-being and position in the working life is great, and this is the reason for the demonstration,” Antti Palola, the chairperson of STTK, stated in a news release in mid-October.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT