Minister of Employment Arto Satonen (NCP) responded to a question during a plenary session in the Parliament House in Helsinki on Tuesday, 20 February 2024. Satonen and Minister of Economic Affairs Wille Rydman (PS) have defended the government proposal to limit political strikes to 24 hours with arguments that have been questioned by legal experts, report YLE and Helsingin Sanomat. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)

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MEMBERS of the Finnish government have repeatedly made questionable claims in defence of the government proposal to impose a 24-hour limit on political strikes, report YLE and Helsingin Sanomat.

Minister of Employment Arto Satonen (NCP) has justified the proposal by arguing that the duration of political strikes has been limited to two to three hours in Sweden.

“Using Sweden as an example, which is a country we’re following in many respects, political strikes have in practice been limited to two to three hours,” he commented to YLE in February.

Minister of Economic Affairs Wille Rydman (PS), meanwhile, is one of several cabinet members who has argued that the industrial peace legislation is outdated and in urgent need of amendments, echoing the contention of, for example, Technology Industries.

“Our industrial peace legislation dates back to 1946. No relevant amendments have been made to it over the decades, even though the world has moved forward tremendously,” he argued on YLE A-Talk on Thursday.

Helsingin Sanomat on Monday pointed out that Sweden has no laws or labour market agreements that would limit the duration of political strikes in the private sector.

The Finnish government estimated in its draft proposal that political industrial actions in the country are allowed primarily as “short protest-like measures” the duration of which has effectively been pre-determined. “Longer actions may be ruled to deprive the other dispute party of rights guaranteed under the collective agreement, specifically employers of their right to direct work,” the proposal reads.

Whether “short” refers to a couple of hours or a couple of days is unclear, however.

“In Sweden, legal experts agree that political strikes are allowed. They are also regarded as protests by nature, meaning they can’t last for too long. But what ‘too long’ means is open to interpretation,” Niklas Bruun, a professor emeritus of commercial law at Hanken School of Economics, told Helsingin Sanomat.

“I don’t think that political strikes that went on for weeks would be allowed. But it’s completely wrong to claim that there’s a two or three-hour limit. No such precedent has been set,” he added.

Satonen said to the newspaper that his understanding of the practice stems from statements made by industry spokespeople in Sweden.

“Even if the allowed limit isn’t two or three hours, what’s key is that political strikes aren’t completely limitless in Sweden. But their duration can be evaluated in court on a case-by-case basis,” he argued.

Bruun also questioned the other assertion made by cabinet members in an interview with YLE. The industrial peace legislation, he stated, has been amended at least nine times, on different occasions, since 1984, with the most recent, 2001 amendment concerning compensatory fines for strikes.

Seppo Koskinen, a professor emeritus of labour law at the University of Turku, admitted to the public broadcasting company that the amendments are not major but added that interpretations of the legislation have become stricter over the decades.

“Now it’d be crucial to shoot down the idea that nothing has happened since the 40s and that partial compromises can always be made,” he said to YLE.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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