Jussi Saramo (LA), Antti Lindtman (SDP), Sofia Virta (Greens) and Lauri Lyly (SDP) announced a joint interpellation directed at the labour market and social security reforms pursued by the Finnish government in the Parliament House in Helsinki on Friday, 16 February 2024. The interpellation set off a long and heated debate in parliament on Tuesday, 20 February. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)


AN INTERPELLATION from the Green League, Left Alliance and Social Democrats kindled a long and heated debate in parliament on Tuesday.

The three opposition parties accuse the government of sowing division in labour markets and abandoning the culture of bargaining and collaboration by insisting on moving forward with a serious of bills concerning the strike rights, lay-off justifications and unemployment security.

Antti Lindtman, the chairperson of the Social Democrats, pleaded with the government to lend an ear to wage earners and negotiate a solution that strikes a balance between labour market flexibilities and security.

“We’re pleading with you: start the talks, put a stop to the spiral of confrontation,” he stated according to YLE.

Lauri Lyly (SDP) argued that the government proposals have been drafted by employer organisations, while the proposals of trade unions have been completely disregarded.

“Not a single thing proposed by employees ended up in government proposals. Not a single one,” he bemoaned. “Current Minister of Finance Riikka Purra (PS) promised before the elections that the government wouldn’t interfere in the right to strike. And Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) has said that no one will be subjected to unreasonable demands.”

Minister of Employment Arto Satonen (NCP) responded to the criticism by stressing that it is necessary to strengthen national competitiveness, reminding that call for greater flexibility and local bargaining have been made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the OECD.

“Maintaining the welfare state is only possible if everyone who’s able is in working life,” he argued.

The government, he added, is willing to co-operate to tackle the problems but not to sweep the problems under the rug.

Although the Centre Party did not support the interpellation, it did support the motion of confidence submitted by the Social Democrats. Tuomas Kettunen (Centre) viewed that the government has pushed the country to the brink of a general strike.

“The National Coalition and industry brass are forcing through unilateral changes to working life with no regard for the consequences and trying at the same time to defeat the labour movement,” he said.

“And what about the Finns Party?” he added. “All that’s left from everything that it promised to employees is the mafia remarks of the minister of economic affairs. They mostly remind you of mischievous brats.”

“Prime minister, the time has come for you to lead. You if anyone has to take charge now,” demanded Kettunen.

Orpo on Tuesday both denied that the country is in chaos and blamed trade unions for causing the chaos. “Finland isn’t in chaos. The chaos has been caused by those who’ve taken the road of strikes,” he countered in the Parliament House. “We have the responsibility to save the Finnish welfare society.”

Purra, meanwhile, expressed her bafflement at the fact that opposition parties have rejected government proposals that are backed by the results of a survey by the Federation of Finnish Enterprises.

“When you ask companies if they plan on hiring after the reforms if of [these proposals] will make it easier to hire more workers, they answer ‘yes’,” she said. “Who should we ask if not those that create jobs?”

“The labour movement’s actions are the biggest hindrance in Finland.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT