Deserted platforms at Helsinki Central Station on Monday, 12 February 2024. Organised by the Railway Union (RAU) and Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL), a one-day strike halted both commuter and long-distance trains in Finland. The Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) has calculated that strikes organised in the past two months may have already cost billions to Finland. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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THE FINNISH ECONOMY has already incurred roughly a billion euros in losses due to the ongoing political strikes, gauges Ilkka Oksala, the director of labour market affairs at the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK).

His estimate comprises strikes organised in the past couple of months.

The Transport Workers’ Union (AKT) on Monday reported that bus drivers and service-station employees will take part in a two-day political strike starting on Wednesday, 14 February. Also Finnish ports will come to a screeching halt with stevedores going on strike between Wednesday and Friday.

“The strike will affect bus services and shut down ports. Overall, AKT’s strike covers around 10,000 employees,” the union said, pointing to a laundry list of government proposals as justification for the industrial action.

“Earnings-based unemployment security is being torn down. Laying someone off will only require a proper reason, and it is uncertain how small an action will be enough for lay-off. Getting sick will cost you, with the first day of sick leave becoming unpaid. No justification will be needed for fixed-term hires. Local bargaining is at risk of becoming local compulsion, a pretext for undermining employment terms and collective bargaining agreements.”

Oksala on Monday stated to Helsingin Sanomat that the announcement was disappointing but not surprising.

The strikes, he underscored, are beginning to have a substantial impact on the national economy, with a cautious estimate by the newspaper putting the number of employees taking part in strikes this week at roughly 100,000.

“When this goes on and on, this’ll start having a growing impact on companies operating in Finland.”

EK believes the government should stand firm rather than make concessions to employees, according to Oksala.

“We consider the Finnish economy’s problems to be so profound that it’s no longer possible to hide your head in the sand and not make the difficult decisions,” he explained, reminding that the labour market and social security reforms have already received the blessing of parliament.

“We had parliamentary elections last year, and people negotiated for as long as two months, wrangling and making compromises. The reforms have since then also received the parliament’s approval.”

“This is an element of parliamentary democracy.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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