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Proposed law could restrict nurses' right to strike

A law limiting nurses' ability to strike re-emerges as healthcare unions plan new industrial action.

Image: Antti-Petteri Karhunen / Yle
Yle News

A controversial new law that would effectively force striking nurses back to work is due to come into force in two weeks. Most government parties are, however, tight-lipped on their views of the Patient Safety Act.

At the end of last week Minister for Family Affairs and Social Services Aki Lindén (SDP) began preparing for the proposed law to come into force after his ministry said new nurses' strikes threatened patient safety.

Nurses' unions Super and Tehy have issued strike warnings in five different regions with the aim of speeding up negotiations in their labour dispute.

Lindén initially proposed the Patient Safety Act last spring, but after much controversy it failed to proceed when healthcare unions called off a second major strike.

Swift action?

To have any impact on nurses' strikes planned for this month, the bill would have to be pushed through quickly.

Healthcare unions have said the Patient Safety Act amounts to a forced labour law as it curtails their freedom to strike.

Tehy chair Millariikka Rytkönen did not respond to Finnish news agency STT's request for comment.

STT also reached out to government parties to gauge their views on the proposed law.

Centre Party parliamentary group chair Juha Pylväs provided the clearest response, according to STT, saying his party would support Lindén's proposal.

"Society has to ensure that saving lives and critical care are available in all situations," he told STT over the phone.

Representatives from the ruling Social Democrats and Left Alliance meanwhile said they were waiting on more information before commenting on the bill's latest developments.

Atte Harjanne, who chairs the Greens' parliamentary group, told STT the party was generally critical of the proposed law.

Harjanne, however, said he understood that Lindén was stuck between a "rock and a hard place," noting that the care sector was chronically understaffed.

STT said it was not able to reach the Swedish People's Party for comment.

Super and Tehy have demanded a five-year salary programme in connection with salary increases, which would increase salaries by 3.6 percent every year for five years on top of the general salary bump.

In June, unions and employer groups settled a major municipal sector labour dispute. However, nursing unions did not participate in the negotiations, and announced they would continue their campaign for pay increases after the summer break, while preparing for a campaign of mass resignations.

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