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Postal workers plan Helsinki protest amid acrimonious start to strike

The union representing postal workers said striking employees will stage a demonstration in Helsinki on Tuesday.

Strike marshals gathered at a Posti logistical centre in Vantaa. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva
Yle News

The postal workers’ union PAU says workers will demonstrate in Helsinki, even as it has accused national mail company Posti of hiring scab labour during a strike that began on Monday.

On Monday the union charged that Posti cut a hole in a fence at a sorting centre in southwest Finland to allow temporary labourers in to do the work of striking employees.

Union president Heidi Nieminen told news agency STT that the temp workers filling in for striking Posti employees have been put under heavy pressure by the mail company.

Nieminen said that the replacement workers, who all have zero-hours contracts, were told that if they do not show up for work during the strike, they would never be hired again.

Employer and employee representatives had divergent views on the nature of the breach in the fence. Image: PAU / Lehtikuva

The alleged hole was cut into the fence at the Lieto sorting centre near Turku, southwest Finland. However Posti said that there was no hole, rather, the fence was cut simply to create a more convenient access route for workers.

"The extra gate in question had to do with the fact that it’s a significantly shorter route to walk from the parking lot to the sorting centre than along the roadway," Posti head of exception management Jarmo Ainasoja said on Radio Suomi on Monday morning.

Demonstration over contentious wage talks

Postal union members began strike action at 6am on Monday. The industrial action was initially planned to last two weeks. However PAU announced on Sunday that the strike could stretch to four weeks if no progress is made in wage talks with the employer Posti. The strike is expected to cause delays in parcel and letter deliveries across the country.

On Monday, the union announced it planned a demonstration in Helsinki at 1.00pm on Tuesday. Workers will protest poorer terms and conditions of work in a new collective agreement proposed by Posti. Protesters will congregate at the parking lot next to the Ilmala train station in Pasila before proceeding to the Posti head office.

Discontent over "spineless" workers

The strike by an estimated 9,000 postal workers is expected to affect mail and parcel deliveries in various parts of the country to different degrees.

In Northern Savo, 450 workers have embarked on the work stoppage, disrupting distribution of morning newspapers. The local media company, Savon Media said that it opened up its online paper so that non-subscribers could follow the news.

In northern Ostrobothnia, nearly all mail delivery , sorting and transportation workers affected by the contentious wage talks have joined the industrial action. Meanwhile Jyrki Sutinen, chief shop steward for unionised workers in Lapland, said that about 300 employees in the region are on strike.

PAU chief shop steward for the Pirkanmaa region, Leo Harra said that temp workers had been hired to try and break the strike.

"Government official Sirpa Paatero has said that temporary personnel cannot [be used to] break up a legal strike. Unfortunately even some of our own people are spineless. However they’ve still been happy to have all of the benefits of union membership," Harra charged. Paatero is the government minister responsible for oversight of state-owned firms such as Posti.

Posti: Parcel deliveries still "reasonably good"

Posti’s Ainasoja noted that some workers have defied the order to strike and have shown up for work. However he could not provide a precise count.

"It’s a fluid situation because shifts begin at different times," he told Radio Suomi.

"We have personnel who come to work regardless of a strike, as well as fixed-term workers who had been previously hired," he added.

Ainasoja speculated that there would be few letter deliveries on Monday. But he said that parcel deliveries had been working "reasonably well".

"It seems that we can maintain mechanical sorting at the sorting centres," he explained.

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