Location Finland Finland

Political strike in Finland

Finland, a number of trade unions have joined to a political strike on Friday 2 February called in protest at the government’s new measures to sanction unemployed benefit claimants who fail to perform 18 hours of paid work over a three-month period, or enter job-related training. The government’s “active model” threatens unemployed people with cuts in benefits unless they can prove they are actively seeking work. The law took effect at the beginning of the year, and the government is now planning follow-on legislation. Unions representing workers in the transport, media and printing trades, communications staff and newspaper delivery employees, construction and public sectors have already announced they will join the strike.

“We want to use this rare action to clearly show our feelings about not just the ‘active model’ itself, but also the bourgeois Juha Sipilä government’s ways of working,” said the Industrial union’s chair Riku Aalto.

The main SAK labour federation is organising a demonstration at Senate Square beginning at 11 am and expected to end by 12.30. Besides speakers and music from Vuokko Hovatta of Ultra Bra, attendees will be offered free coffee and pea soup.

Some unions, including the AKT transport union, the Industrial Union and the Construction Union, are staging strikes to support the event. AKT local and long-distance bus drivers will stay off the job until 6 pm. In Helsinki, tram and metro staff who are members of the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL) are also joining the political strike.

On February 2 the strike is affecting other parts of the country, not just the capital region, although the biggest impact is being felt in the heavily-populated Helsinki region. Some 60 percent of long-distance coaches are expected to operate. On Friday afternoon, only a quarter of buses were running in the capital region. Taxis are not accepting advance orders.

Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) estimates that about the same number of buses are in operation on Friday afternoon as in the morning, or roughly one in four.

A walkout by Metro and tram operators is set to continue until Saturday morning. Local and long-distance trains and the ferry to Suomenlinna island are operating normally. State Railways VR warns that commuter trains are likely to be more crowded than usual on Friday afternoon and evening.

The national SAK strike ends at 6 pm on Friday. However there will still be disruptions in capital region Metro and tram service next week due to an ongoing overtime ban imposed by the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL).

Most underground and tram drivers are JHL members. As a result some departures will be cancelled beginning on Monday.

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