Jarkko Eloranta of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), Päivi Niemi-Laine of the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL), and Annika Rönni-Sällinen of Service Union United (PAM) on Tuesday announced measures against the government’s plans to reform labour markets and slash social security at a news conference in Helsinki on Tuesday, 31 October 2023. Helsingin Sanomat reported a day later that SAK and its member unions are also drawing up plans for a large-scale strike that could take place early next year. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


JYRI HÄKÄMIES, the director general at the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), has expressed his concern about the massive strike reportedly planned by the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK).

Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday reported that the central organisation and its member unions are planning a large-scale strike in protest of the government's labour market reforms and spending cuts for early next year, possibly February.

Jarkko Eloranta, the chairperson of SAK, refused to confirm the plan yesterday.

“We on Tuesday announced work stoppages of up to a day that will start next week. No decisions have been made on other things, and there’s nothing more to report at this point,” he said to Helsingin Sanomat.

Häkämies commented on the reported plan in an interview with the newspaper later yesterday, describing the strike as a “tremendously forceful” and “almost unprecedented measure” against the labour market reforms and social security cuts pursued by the government of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP).

While the strike would not technically be a general strike, it could have a significant impact on industry, ports and services across Finland.

Häkämies declined to speculate on the effects, citing lack of confirmed details, but estimated that the reported plan does resemble a general strike.

“The [strike reportedly taking place early next year] would signal a shift to powerful tools in a situation where we have a government that reflects the will of citizens, as expressed in the elections, and enjoys the support of parliament. Hopefully the news isn’t accurate,” he said.

Finland, he argued, could not afford a strike of the reported scope.

“We’re talking about jobs now. Finland can’t afford things like these – especially when you consider the fact that the government’s proposal aligns us with the Nordics. You don’t see this kind of skirmishing in Sweden, and its economy is doing a lot better.”

“SAK is strongly messaging that the government should call off its measures. At least so far the government has concluded that it’ll move forward resolutely, which is a good thing.”

The government has drawn the ire of trade unions with its proposals to reform labour markets and reduce spending on several social security benefits. In February, it is expected to present the parliament a bill that would restrict the right to strike by, for example, capping the duration of political strikes at one day.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT