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New wave of industrial action to begin

Helsinki (26.01.2020 – Heikki Jokinen) A new series of industrial action is set to begin from Monday 27 January onwards. The Industrial Union and Trade Union Pro have announced strikes in the mechanical forestry industry and energy sector. The paper industry is also heading towards a strike.

The strike in the chemical industry is, however, to be delayed. The Minister of Employment, Social Democrat Tuula Haatainen used her prerogative, under law, to delay the strike – set to begin on Monday 27 January – by two weeks. According to Minister Haatainen the strike could affect critical functions as it would close the Neste oil refinery. This could lead to serious disturbances in transport.

Minister Haatainen also used her prerogative to delay, by two weeks, the Trade Union Pro strike in respect of clerical employees in the technology sector.
The goal of Pro is to get rid of the 24 unpaid annual working hours that unions were forced to accept as a part of a three-year pact under heavy pressure from the right-wing Government in 2016. The Technology Industries of Finland agreed earlier with the Industrial Union to remove the extra hours for workers in the industry.

But in regard to clerical employees, the employers’ association has refused outright to budge on this issue. Earlier in January, they even took the highly unusual measure of ending the time-honoured practise of employers deducting union dues from pay. This procedure is normally written into collective agreements or agreed upon separately and employers have been diligent and scrupulous in respect of these agreements.

This latest move by employers, whereby they unilaterally decide not to deduct union dues contrary to normal agreements, indicates a new and purely ideological element in the employers’ toolbox. The goal is obviously to hamper union work and organising instead of the traditional pragmatic goal to build functioning labour market relations and to avoid unnecessary friction.
Trade Union Pro will also hold a strike for clerical employees at a number of companies in the energy sector 1 – 8 February.

Forestry industry and paper mills strike

The Industrial Union will take two-week strike action in the mechanical forestry industry on Monday 27 January, which will involve more than 6,000 employees at sawmills and plywood factories.The current collective agreement expired at the end of November. The Union has already had a three-day strike and the employers have, in turn, organised a six-day lockout.

So far, the Industrial Union has agreed upon a collective agreement in several branches. These agreements cover some 120,000 employees and the 24-hour unpaid annual work has been dropped from all of these.

In the paper industry the collective bargaining seems to be at an impasse. The Paper Workers’ Union and the employers’ association have met 42 times with no result. The parties will meet again on Sunday 26 January trying to forge an agreement. The Union, however, let it be known a couple of days ago that the strike is “even more likely” than ever.

Trade Union Pro which represents clerical employees will also begin a two-week strike in the paper industry on 27 January.

The key issue in these negotiations is – once again – the fate of the 24 unpaid extra annual working hours. Trade unions say the time of unpaid work is over and employers insists it is permanent.

Both sides are resolute in their convictions, determined not to concede, and as of yet we have not seen any creative solutions to the problem. But creative solutions are exactly what is needed in order to bring this collective bargaining round to a happy end.

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