Finnish Political strikes continue into fourth week

The main employers’ group, the EK, estimates that the strike has already cost some €2bn.

YLE NEWS 14:19 • Updated 14:23

Finland’s biggest labour federation, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), has decided to extend its political strikes for at least another week.

The SAK board said on Wednesday that the walkouts would continue without interruption, targeting the same companies – mostly affecting ports and major export firms.

The labour group and its 18 member unions previously said that the strikes would continue until the end of March, ensuring they will have gone on for nearly a month even if they end at that point.

The job actions are aimed at pressuring the right-wing government to backtrack on its efforts to roll back labour rights and social security.

The reforms would make it easier to fire employees, cut unemployment benfits, abolish mandated sick pay from the first day of sick leave, and increase flexibility employers have to agree terms of work locally rather than abiding by sectoral agreements, among other things.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) has insisted the cabinet will push ahead with the controversial reforms, which a recent Yle poll suggests are opposed by a majority of the population. A poll published earlier on Wednesday by a pro-business group showed a narrow split on the issue.

“The government has not taken account of workers’ concerns in any way,” said SAK Chair Jarkko Eloranta. “It has stubbornly pushed forward its own governmetn programme and the employers’ demands.”

The SAK board will convene again to reconsider the strike situation next week, after the long Easter holiday weekend.

Is Finland’s strike wave going to end?

The main employers’ group, the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), said that the SAK’s decision to continue the political strikes shows “complete recklessness”.

In a press release on Wednesday, the business lobby estimated that the strike has already cost almost two billion euros.

“It seems that SAK is only deepening the [state] debt problem. This long-lasting strike is undermining not only companies and wage earners, but also the entire welfare society. The decrease in production and the loss of jobs is increasing the decline in tax revenues,” said EK Director General Jyri Häkämies, a former economic affairs minister from Orpo’s National Coalition Party.