Heli Puura, SAK: Limiting the right to strike clears the way for further assaults on working conditions by the Orpo-Purra Government

SAK condemns newly enacted laws significantly restricting the right to industrial action as highly unwise and inequitable.
14.05. 14:48
Photo Ilona Savitie and Sami Mäkinen.

Employment Conditions Director Heli Puura of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) notes that recently adopted restrictions on the right to strike will make it harder for organised employees and their unions to be heard. 

Heli Puura.

– These restrictions clear the way for several further assaults on working conditions included in the Government Programme. Limiting political strikes to 24 hours also contravenes binding international treaties that Finland has approved.

Restricting the right to strike is the first major reduction of employment rights implemented by the Orpo-Purra Government. The reform was prepared in haste, and there was no genuine consultation with social partners. The drafting process also ignored the views of specialists in fundamental and human rights law.

– The legislative package mainly sought to deliver on a long-sustained insistence and requirement of business interests. The government even ignored an intervention addressed by the UN International Labour Organisation to the Minister of Labour in April, seeking renegotiation of the statutory reform with the social partners, Heli Puura explains.

She notes that the new law affects the right to collective bargaining by limiting lawful recourse to sympathetic industrial action. This will make it harder for employees to defend and improve their working conditions.

– The provision governing sympathetic industrial action is unclear and open to interpretation. Contrary to the established interpretation of international law, it accepts the financial interests of employers as grounds for limiting sympathetic industrial action.

The new law introduces a manifold increase in fines payable for unlawful strike action. It also imposes an entirely new sanction in the form of a penalty payment for individual employees who take part in an unlawful strike, even when a trade union called the strike.

– The lack of any corresponding increase in fines payable by employers for infringing collective agreements and neglecting their duty of supervision illustrates the inequitable character of the drafting process, Heli Puura comments.

– The Orpo-Purra Government has charted a course for Finnish employment and labour law that diverges sharply from the Nordic model. There is no telling where this may lead. SAK opposes this erosion of the contractual society.

The Finnish Parliament approved statutes restricting the right to strike on 8 May 2024.