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Home NATIONALMassive strikes to paralyse country on Friday
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Wed, 16 Sep, 2015 12:00:08 AM
Schools to remain open during shutdown
FTimes-Xinhua Report, Sep 16

A nationwide demonstration and a series of strikes will be launched by labour unions in the country on Friday to protest against government measures aimed at reducing labour costs.

     The movement was planned after the  government announced a proposal last week to shorten employee holidays and reduce pay for overtime work, Sunday work and sick leave.

     The government measures, aiming to boost the competitive edge of Finnish industries through binding legislation, has triggered a strong reaction from major labour unions including the blue-collar union federation SAK, the salaried workers' confederation STTK and Confederation of Unions for Academic Professionals Akava.

     Labour organizations, representing more than two million workers in Finland, called for a national demonstration to oppose the proposed cuts.

     The protest will be held in downtown Helsinki on Friday, with strikes expected to halt numerous daily services across the country.

     Public transport including local and long-distance buses and trams will probably be shut down for a day starting Friday morning. Local and long-distance trains will not operate between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. local time on Friday.

     Finnish national carrier Finnair announced Tuesday that the strikes will cause delays, schedule changes and even cancellation of flights, set to affect thousands of travellers.


The labour movement will affect Finnair's customer service, baggage handling and processes and services related to flight departures at Helsinki Airport on Friday during the time of the major demonstration between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. local time, the airline estimated. Finnair warned flight delays could last through the weekend.

     Many shops, restaurants and cafeterias are expected to be closed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time, as their staff stage a walkout.

     Post offices will not be open on Friday for the whole day, and some banks will probably be shut down. Social work and public healthcare may also suffer some disruptions.

     A number of workers in paper, wood, metal, construction and electrical industries are going to participate in the demonstration.

     The teachers' union OAJ previously announced schools would be closed Friday, but later informed schools and kindergartens would remain open.

     Emergency services including surgery units, power and heat supplies, medical transport, police work, border control and others will not be affected, local media reported.

     In order to ease the confrontation between the labor unions and the government over the controversial reform plans, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä told national broadcaster Yle late on Monday that part of the planned measures could be abandoned if trade unions were willing to cut holiday pay by half.

     A 50-percent reduction in holiday pay supplements would make up a large part of the 5-percent-cut in overall labor cost, a target set by the government, said Sipilä.

     However, chiefs of the blue-collar union federation SAK and the white-collar confederation STTK have both denied that talks are underway on an alternative to the government plan.

    Sipilä said workers have the right to express themselves, and he does not plan to intervene in the strikes.

     Mass demonstrations against domestic policies have been rare in Finland since it achieved independence in 1917.

     According to Statistics Finland, the most significant year in the history of labour disputes in Finland was 1956. Since then, wide expressions of civic anger triggered by domestic policies have not been seen.

     The general strike in 1956 lasted three weeks and some 400,000 Finnish workers participated, according to SAK. The strike was launched to protest low salaries and the high cost of living in the wake of the Second World War. 

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