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Finnish professors walk out in first-ever strike

University professors in Finland walked out on strike on Wednesday in unprecedented industrial action.

Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Helsinki University professors and university staff are on strike on Wednesday after a resolution proposed by conciliator Janne Metsämäki was rejected by the employers. The two sides are aiming to sign a new collective agreement covering the university sector.

On Tuesday night Metsämäki proposed a settlement proposition which was rebuffed by the Education Employers who said the proposal did not sufficiently take the employers’ goals into account.

The dispute revolves around disagreements over salary increases. Anne Somer, negotiator for the Education Employers, said the employers are wary of increasing costs.

The rejected proposal would have included salary increases of 1 percent in the first year and 1.1 percent in the second year for everyone covered by the agreement. In addition, there would have been changes to the salary system and steps would have been taken towards the introduction of performance related pay.

Employee groups would have been willing to accept the proposal. Olli Luukkainen, chairman of Juko, described the situation as peculiar.

”This shows incredible indifference on the part of the employers. They are really kicking the education sector in the head with steel boots,” Luukkainen told STT.

From midnight onwards

The 24 hour strike started at midnight on Wednesday. The participants of the strike include Helsinki university employees who are a part of Juko, JHL or Pardia. A demonstration is also planned to take place by the workers outside of the Porthania building.

Groups representing university employees have also issued industrial action warnings for the 7th of March which would expand strikes to universities outside Helsinki. Those in question would include Aalto University, Hanken, Tampere University, Tampere University of Technology, University of Arts Helsinki, and Vaasa University.

In addition, a third industrial action warning has been issued by employee groups for the 14th of March. This would affect the universities of Eastern Finland, Jyväskylä, Lappi, Oulu, Turku, as well as Lappeenranta University of Technology and Åbo Akademi.

The largest trade union for the welfare sector in Finland, JHL, have said they plan to increase the speed of the ongoing negotiations with significant support measures. The union board will decide on their action on Friday.