SAK: We shall launch increasingly severe industrial action

The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) and its affiliated unions have announced their intention to initiate a new wave of political industrial action as of 7 November. These measures will be taken in opposition to needless attacks on the world of work by the Orpo-Purra Government, and as a protest against unfair cuts in social welfare that are inappropriate in current economic conditions.
01.11.2023 06:59
SAK President Jarkko Eloranta announced new political industrial action together with trade union Presidents Päivi Niemi-Laine, Annika Rönni-Sällinen, Kimmo Palonen and Riku Aalto.

The measures of this new wave will be more sustained and their scope will be more comprehensive than before.

"Our previous measures were moderated for good reason. We wanted to give the Government an opportunity to change direction without taking large-scale measures or damaging the national economy. This alarm call fell on deaf ears, or was at least not taken seriously," explains SAK President Jarkko Eloranta.

Industrial Union President Riku Aalto observes that the cuts set out in the Government Programme are not essential measures taken reluctantly after sustained deliberation, but value choices. These cuts exclusively target just one group: employees. Those value choices also dictate the playing order.

"The Orpo-Purra playbook is evident in terms of why the first and most urgent measure is restricting the right to strike. It begins by seeking to silence all criticism, before proceeding to ram a series of ruinous measures through the Finnish labour market."

The Presidents of SAK-affiliated trade unions lambast the Orpon-Purra Government for its poor grasp of realities in the world of work.

Service Union United PAM President Annika Rönni-Sällinen calls attention to an entry in the Government Programme suggesting that full-time working is the primary form of work for most employees. This ignores the fact that nearly 420,000 employees work part-time in Finland. Some 110,000 of these employees work in industries organised by PAM, of whom about 50,000 would prefer to be in full-time work.

The aim is to penalise employees for working part-time without requiring businesses to offer full-time work.

"Government sources have suggested that these employees should merely work full-time, but this is not an option when such work is not available. The standard of shift planning can also be so poor that full-time work becomes impossible."

Finnish Construction Trade Union President Kimmo Palonen criticises the Government for ignoring the business cycle and conditions in various industries.

"As builders, we can expect a tough winter ahead. The economic downturn in the industry could even see one in three of our members out of a job when deepest winter bites. None of these jobseekers will find work through the actions of this Government.”

Public and Welfare Sectors Trade Union JHL President Päivi Niemi-Laine stresses that the practical impact of not being paid for the first day of illness is that people on low wages cannot afford to stay home when sick. Employees who work through illness directly endanger the elderly in homes and institutions, and children at nurseries and schools.

“This is not even any reinvention of the wheel by the Orpo-Purra Government. The Sipilä Government of the last decade already admitted treating people unequally when seeking to justify a similar project. Have we really learned nothing at all?”

The union Presidents are infuriated by comparisons with other Nordic countries and vague impact assessments.

"One of the first planned cuts is an increase in the waiting period for unemployment benefit from five to seven days. The corresponding period is two days in Sweden, whereas Denmark has no waiting period at all. And by what reckoning has anyone determined that two extra waiting days will provide jobs for one thousand workers?" asks Construction Union President Palonen.

The union Presidents characterise the one-day strikes to begin next week as a final warning in the quest for an equitable policy.

"I shall not engage in speculation over what might happen next, but I can forecast that as things stand currently, we are drifting towards large-scale social conflict and escalating strife. This is motivated by a one-sided and unfair policy that employees perceive as contemptuous, and in which the winners may be counted on the fingers of one hand," says SAK President Jarkko Eloranta.

Read more about the Orpo-Purra Government cuts