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Tuesday's papers: Sports day, labour struggles and warm weather

A teacher's concerns about boys and girls competing against each other at a sports day organised for Swedish-speaking primary schools in Helsinki has caused a social media storm.

A Tehy van, door open, with placards for protesters to collect
Trade union protests are set to ramp up this week. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle
Yle News

Swedish-language newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet reports a teacher's concerns about a sports day organised for Swedish-speaking primary schools in Helsinki.

The teacher felt that it was unfair to have boys and girls aged 9-13 in the same competitions, and this risked putting girls off from participating in sports. Of the 60 medals awarded at the sports day, only 16 were taken home by girls.

Social media and other news outlets followed up on the story, with varying degrees of outrage.

The municipality of Helsinki said that the idea was to make the competition open and accessible to pupils who do not feel comfortable identifying as boys or girls. In addition, the physical differences between genders at that age were regarded as small enough to allow for close competition.

This statement did not abate the social media storm, however.

On Tuesday Ilta-Sanomat publishes a column lamenting the way this event has been used as a hobby horse to pursue culture wars, and drawing attention to part of the original HBL story that had been overlooked by many observers.

One individual quoted in the story said that the event had seen several discussions where boys were impressed by girls' performances. The author also suggested that the 16 medals won by girls against boys would likely have been a highlight of their sporting and possibly school careers, and it may be unwise to play down that experience.

Industrial strife

The government's plans to weaken workers' rights and the position of organised labour have prompted a predictable response from trade unions. On Tuesday unions begin a series of protests, starting in northern Finland, intended to force negotiations over some of the plans.

Those plans include legislation to make the first day of sick leave unpaid, make political strikes more difficult, allow fixed-term contracts without special justifications, make it easier to fire workers, ensure sector-wide agreements are not generally binding on all firms and to reduce and taper unemployment benefit payments -- among other measures.

Helsingin Sanomat looks at the unions' plans on Tuesday, and argues that they constitute a warning rather than full-blown labour conflict.

The strikes announced so far are allowed under collective agreements, as they are hour-long walkouts called to protest at the government rather than attempts to force a change in working conditions.

Researchers tell HS that unions may in future look to "tighten the screw" with progressively more disruptive actions. The timetable is challenging, as the working group looking at changes to the strike laws is due to report back in mid-October.

That perhaps illustrates one of the issues Kauppalehti highlights: Finland has more strikes than the other Nordic countries, in large part because of the lack of trust between employers and employees.

Warmer weather

Iltalehti reports that Finland's weather is set to get a little warmer, with temperatures in the high teens as we head towards October.

A high pressure front moving north from southern Europe is the reason for the shift, with untypical warmth set to blanket Finland.

That said, conditions will be cloudy and even misty in places. Next week a shift is expected, with low pressure moving in along with a drop in temperatures.

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