Motorists queued to fill up their tanks in Helsinki on Thursday, 7 March 2024. A series of two-week strikes beginning next Monday could cause fuel shortages at airports and service stations, according to the Finnish Industrial Union. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

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THE CENTRAL ORGANISATION of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) has had discussions about extending the newly announced strikes beyond their two-week duration, Rami Lindström, the head of labour market affairs at SAK, said on YLE A-talk on Thursday.

Lindström stated that there have been “all sorts of discussions” about extending the strikes but stopped short of committing to continuing them until the government has revised its labour market reforms.

“Let’s just say that we’ve naturally got all sorts of messages. From different unions, the membership, the field, employees, we’ve got messages that now is the time to push back,” he said.

Lindström added that the pressure to continue opposing the government plans is enormous due to the fundamental significance of the question at hand: the very future of the organised labour market in Finland.

“That’s what this is about. Promoting local bargaining undermines organisation and general applicability. That’s a foundational question,” he said.

SAK on Wednesday announced a series of political strikes that are expected to halt goods transport at ports, disrupt rail freight services and complicate the operations of process industries for the period between Monday, 11 March, and Sunday, 24 March. Its strategy appears to be to apply pressure especially to the executives of large companies in hope that they will convince the government to abandon its proposals.

Among the unions participating are the Finnish Industrial Union, Finnish Construction Trade Union, Finnish Transport Workers’ Union (AKT), Service Union United and Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL).

Helsingin Sanomat on Thursday reported that AKT at least is prepared to continue the strikes for another two weeks, until 7 April. Chairperson Ismo Kokko told YLE, though, that while there is readiness to extend the strike, no such plans have yet been drawn up.

The Finnish Industrial Union on Wednesday warned that the two-week strikes alone could cause fuel shortages at airports and service stations, given that their targets include the distribution terminals of Neste in Naantali and Porvoo.

Harri Tuomaala, the head of ABC at SOK, told Helsingin Sanomat that yesterday was busier than usual at service stations, with sales volumes reaching the level before winter holidays.

“The day hasn’t been unusual, but busier than the average Thursday,” he described in an interview with the newspaper. “Finland won’t run out of fuels. Based on the current situation, we’ll be able to continue operating as usual.”

“The current scenario is not that there’ll definitely be problems, but we also can’t say there won’t be any disruptions,” added Tuomaala.

Vesa Jaskari, the chairperson of Neste Kauppiaat, revealed to the newspaper that queues did build up at service stations in cities as many motorists filled up their tanks to the brim and some even fuel canisters.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) will sit down with labour market representatives today at his official residence to discuss ways to develop the labour market model in Finland. Helsingin Sanomat wrote earlier this week that the premier is looking to resume tripartite discussions on wage formulation.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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