Hundreds of thousands of workers have been taking part in strike action across Finland in protest at the right-wing governments plans to attack workers’ rights.
Prime minister Petteri Orpo of the National Coalition party plans to restrict the right to strike, to undermine the system of wage negotiation and cut unemployment benefits.
The strikes are part of a programme calling on Finland's right-wing government to cancel the planned cuts and start a real dialogue with workers' representatives. The strikes are not primarily aimed at the employers, but at influencing political decisions.
The Finnish labour market is in turmoil at these proposals and the strikes have been widespread, affecting both the private and public sector. Called by The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) and the Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK), the strikers called on the government to immediately abandon their attacks under the banner ‘Stop Now”.
More than 13,000 people gathered in Helsinki on 1 February to demonstrate against the government's plans and Labour Minister Arto Satonen of the ruling National Coalition Party spoke at a rally. In response to the trade unions demand that the government negotiate any reforms with them, the minister's message was familiar: there will be no such negotiations. His message was greeted with loud shouts of protest, and the strikes are planned to continue this week.
President of Finnish Transport Workers´ Union (AKT) Ismo Kokko said: “This is a very unusual and unfortunate situation that has been created by the right-wing government of Finland. The government's cuts in working life and social security are unacceptable to workers and the government must be made to listen to us”.
ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said: “It looks as though weakening the trade unions is one of this government's main objectives thereby threatening the well-functioning Nordic model based on negotiations. Trade unions in Finland have responded by fighting together on a scale that has rarely been seen in the Finnish labour market – and the ITF will stand together with them until they win.”