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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Finnish Unions Extend Strikes to Fight Right-Wing Attack on Labour, Safety Net

"The policies now pursued by the Orpo-Purra government fulfill long-standing dreams of Finnish big business," said one journalist.

Mass labour protests like this one have gripped Finland - screenshot

By Brett Wilkins, Common Dreams

Labour unions in Finland said Wednesday that they would continue their two-week strike wave through the end of March as they fight attacks on worker rights and social programs by the Nordic nation's right-wing government.

The blue-collar union confederation SAK announced the extension after an unproductive meeting with Finnish Employment Minister Arto Santonen of the ruling center-right National Coalition Party (NCP), state broadcaster Yle reported.

"From our perspective the meeting was a disappointment and obviously we are very worried over the fact that the government is so stubborn and unresponsive even to our far-reaching compromise proposals," SAK chair Jarkko Eloranta told reporters. "We are ready to suspend the strikes if the government shows an understanding of workers' concerns."

Approximately 7,000 Finnish union members including dock and industrial workers are taking part in the work stoppages, which are disrupting exports, imports, and cargo transportation. Last year, the transport workers' union AKT staged a two-week strike that shut down Finnish ports while demanding higher wages as part of a new collective bargaining agreement. The workers ultimately won a 25-month contract with a 6% raise.

Finland's April 2023 general election saw the defeat of former Prime Minister Sanna Marin's center-left coalition government, which was replaced by a coalition including Prime Minister Petteri Orpo's NCP and the far-right Finns Party, led by Deputy Prime Minister Riikka Purra, who is also the finance minister. The new government angered labour advocates by announcing an agenda that includes making it easier for employers to fire workers, slashing unemployment insurance, cutting social security benefits, weakening sick pay, and limiting solidarity strikes.

Orpo's government also says it will pass legislation creating an "export-driven" collective bargaining model that would cap wage increases, while localizing collective bargaining, effectively empowering individual companies to negotiate their own contracts with workers.

"These policies... were straight from the playbook of the employers' organizations, who generously financed the campaigns of the right-wing parties in the election," Finnish journalist Toivo Haimi wrote for Jacobin. "It is worth noting that these policies received very little attention during the election campaign, and some of them were even directly opposed by the Finns Party."

"The policies now pursued by the Orpo-Purra government fulfill long-standing dreams of Finnish big business," Haimi added.

Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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