Jarkko Eloranta, the chairperson at the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), folded a piece of paper ahead of a press conference held in Helsinki on Thursday, 4 April 2024. Eloranta announced the central organisation has decided not to extend its political strikes in order to give the government “room to manoeuvre”. (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

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THE CENTRAL ORGANISATION of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) has suspended its political strikes as of today.

Jarkko Eloranta, the chairperson at SAK, on Thursday stated at a press conference that the central organisation decided to suspend the strikes in order to provide the government with room to manoeuvre.

“The government has stated that it won’t look for new solutions with employees as long as the strikes continue. We didn’t make any new decisions to continue the strikes. The strikes will be suspended on Monday, 8 April. We’re ready to hold discussions already before that,” he was quoted saying by Helsingin Sanomat.

As SAK had extended the strikes twice by a week in similar circumstances – with the government explicitly adamant about not making any meaningful concessions and not engaging in negotiations as long as the strikes continue – the decision can be interpreted as a defeat for the central organisation.

On Thursday, Eloranta was asked if waning public support for the strikes had any bearing on the decision to suspend the strikes. He said decreasing public support was not a “decisive factor” for the decision, highlighting that many union members continued to show widespread support for the strikes.

He also rejected the interpretation that trade unions are looking to preserve their cash coffers for the labour market disputes that are expected in the second half of the year.

About 7,000 employees participated in the strikes since 11 March, halting the handling of cargo at ports, disrupting rail freight services and complicating the operations of heavy industries such as the pulp and steel industries.

Eloranta said he hopes specifically that the government will promise not to push forward the enactment of its bill for restricting political strikes.

Set to limit the duration of political strikes to 24 hours, restrict solidarity strikes and raise fines for illegal strikes, the bill is presently under consideration and scheduled to come into effect on 1 July. Lawmakers, though, have the possibility to propose that the bill be enacted earlier, kindling public speculation that it could come into effect by May Day.

SAK has also expressed its strong opposition to a government proposal to expand local bargaining. It has refused to engage in negotiations on an export-driven wage formation model until the government takes its concerns about other reforms better into account; the government has repeatedly stated that it considers the proposals in question as a single entity.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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