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Air traffic controllers begin two-hour work stoppage

Air traffic controllers will stop work from 3 to 5pm on Friday, in the first of a planned series of weekly walkouts in response to an unresolved labour dispute.

The view from the Rovaniemi Airport control tower in Finnish Lapland. Image: Kaisa Siren / AOP

The National Conciliator's Office has announced a breakdown in labour negotiations between Finland's air traffic controllers and the representative association of service sector employers Palta, meaning that the first in a series of two-hour air traffic controller work stoppages will take place on Friday, from 3 to 5pm.

The office says negotiations will continue once some concessions are on the table, as at present, the two parties to the dispute are deeply divided on the terms and conditions of a future work contract.

"The air traffic controllers have brought many things to the conciliator's table. This makes it hard to imagine that there would be a quick remedy to the dispute," Palta's director general Tuomas Aarto said in a press release.

The Palta press release said that during the work stoppage, supervisors will be charged with directing air traffic, in addition to other arrangements to cover the shortage.

The air traffic controllers' union SLJY said it was sorry about the breakdown in negotiations in its own bulletin, and regretted the inconvenience that the work stoppage would create for customers. The union issued a warning about the plan to stage a series of brief walkouts before Christmas.

Weekly walkouts scheduled for Thursdays

After the first work stoppage on Friday, SLJY is planning a weekly two-hour walkout every Thursday from 1 to 3pm until a satisfactory agreement is reached.

Finland's air traffic controllers and their employers have long been unsuccessfully negotiating a new work contract. The previous contract that determined the terms and conditions of the work expired in November 2017. Talks to draw up a replacement hit an impasse on 21 December.

An initial mediation session between the disputing parties with the state conciliator present took place in the days between Christmas and New Year's Eve, but was unable to broker a deal.

SLJY claimed that Palta was unwilling to commit to a general policy with regard to salaries and wages. The employer group said that it had submitted several such policy suggestions to the workers.