Chairpersons Riku Aalto of the Industrial Union, Jarkko Eloranta of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions, Sauli Väntti of the Electrical Workers’ Union, Ismo Kokko of the Transport Workers’ Union (AKT) and Håkan Ekström of the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL) spoke to reporters in Helsinki on 20 March 2024. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)

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THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS at the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) on Wednesday decided to extend the ongoing political strikes until 7 April.

The extension marks already the second one-week extension to strikes organised in protest of the labour market reforms and social security cuts outlined by the government of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP).

The strikes are thereby unusually long for political strikes.

Organised by the Finnish Industrial Union, Construction Union, Electrical Workers’ Union, Transport Workers’ Union (AKT), Service Union United (PAM) and Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL), the strikes were initially set to last for two weeks, until 24 March.

Jarkko Eloranta, the chairperson of SAK, on Wednesday said trade unions have pleaded with the government to adopt a more just and reasonable approach.

“However, the government is not listening to organisations representing employees. It remains intent on fulfilling numerous goals for industries that are harmful for employees. Several of them have no impact on employment or the balance of public finances,” he argued in a press release from SAK.

Trade unions, he reiterated, are prepared to stop the strikes as soon as the government shows a degree of understanding for the concerns of employees.

Despite having only about 7,000 participants, the strikes have halted the handling of goods at key export ports, disrupted both rail freight and fuel delivery services, and complicated the operations of production facilities in, for example, the steel and forest industries.

SAK will re-convene to evaluate the situation after Easter.

Eloranta stated to YLE on Wednesday that the organisation will make its decision on possible follow-up actions at the meeting. Corporate concerns about competitiveness, he added, will evaporate by May Day or early July, when the bill to restrict the duration of political strikes is set to enter into force.

“That’s when the strikes, too, will probably end,” he said to the public broadcasting company.

A YLE survey published last week found that a narrow but diminishing public majority continues to support the strikes.

Technology Industries has revealed that the strikes have compelled around 40 per cent of its member organisations to reduce investments in Finland. Its member survey also revealed that a quarter of large companies have already moved production overseas and that a third of companies intend to furlough or lay off employees due to the strikes.

“Many Finns will lose their jobs or future jobs won’t be created because of the strikes,” Minna Helle, the deputy managing director of Technology Industries, warned at a news conference on Monday.

Chief economist Petteri Rautaporras argued that the challenging economic conditions could convince some companies to keep production overseas on a permanent basis, a scenario that would also dent demand for sub-contractors in Finland.

The survey was conducted on 13–18 March, drawing a response from 645 member companies of Technology Industries.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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