Annika Rönni-Sällinen (right), the chairperson of Service Union United (PAM), demonstrated in Helsinki on 24 November 2023 alongside Katja Syvärinen and Jarkko Eloranta of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK). PAM on Wednesday revealed it will organise a series of strikes at, for example, grocery shops and service stations in early February. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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SERVICE UNION UNITED (PAM) on Wednesday announced its decision to hold a series of strikes at hotels, restaurants, retail shops, service stations and cleaning and real estate companies in early February.

Covering tens of thousands of employees, the 24-hour strike will start at midnight and end at 11.59pm on 1 February.

“PAM sees no choice but to demonstrate and stage a political strike to plead with the government to amend the negative changes it intends to implement,” commented Annika Rönni-Sällinen, the chairperson at PAM.

“The cuts in unemployment security will not create more jobs, but they will further undermine the status and livelihood of people who are already struggling with unemployment.”

PAM has also decided to take part in the demonstration scheduled to take place at Kansalaistori Square in Helsinki on 1 February.

The demonstration is organised by the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) and the Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK). The two central organisations have invited all citizens and non-governmental organisations who are concerned about the policy direction of the government to participate in the demonstration.

PAM on Wednesday said the Finnish government has already slashed unemployment security and the housing allowance. It is also planning on making it easier to lay off staff, restrict the right to strike and make the first day of sick leave unpaid.

“In addition, further cuts will be targeted at unemployment security, which will hurt people employed in service sectors,” it stated.

The strikes will affect all shops and service stations of S Group, all grocery shops of Kesko and shops of Lidl and Tokmanni, according to PAM. In the tourism and accommodation sector, it will affect all hotels and restaurants of Scandic, S Group and Sokotel.

PAM assured that the strike will not jeopardise any urgent work or work that is critical for the functioning of key societal services. It also pledged to design the strike such that it has no impact on the operations of advance polling stations adjacent to commercial facilities.

The Finnish Hospitality Association (Mara) on Wednesday viewed that the strikes suggest poor judgement by PAM.

“Demand for the industry’s services has decreased substantially across Finland, with the exception of Northern Finland. Finland has not enjoyed the same kind of tourism growth as other Nordic countries after the coronavirus pandemic due to the negative effects of the war started by Russia,” argued Timo Lappi, the managing director of Mara.

“The situation is especially difficult in Eastern Finland and Helsinki. The capital region has over 4,000 hotels rooms more than in 2018, but the number of foreign visitors is over 20 per cent lower. PAM is not promoting the welfare of its own members by holding a strike in this situation,” he added.

Ilkka Oksala, the director of labour market affairs at the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), stated to STT on Wednesday that the strikes are poorly timed given the economic challenges faced by Finland. With virtually all sectors already struggling, he gauged, the strikes could be the last straw for some companies in the private sector.

Strikes loom also over air travel and education

The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL) has revealed it intends to organise a strike with effects on air travel to demonstrate its disapproval of government measures affecting employees, the unemployed and other social security recipients.

The union is expected to provide more details about the timing and scope of the strike at a news conference on Friday.

The Trade Union of Education in Finland (OAJ), meanwhile, is expected to announce the conclusions of its recent extraordinary meeting next week. A survey commissioned by the union found recently that more than 80 per cent of its members would be prepared to participate in a political strike if the government insists on moving forward with measures that gnaw away at the status of employees.

OAJ is opposed especially to the proposal to prevent the national conciliator and conciliatory boards from offering pay hikes that exceed those agreed on in export industries.

The Industrial Union and Trade Union Pro in December communicated that they will launch a work stoppage at two large industrial areas, in Kokkola and Porvoo, on 1 February.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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