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Rail workers' ban on overtime, shift swaps to cause train cancellations

VR said that it would try to minimise the impact of the workers' industrial action.

Image: Georges Hourani / Yle

A ban on overtime work and shift swaps by train drivers and traffic controllers could lead to cancellations of commuter, inter-city and freight trains, according to the Finnish railway firm VR.

VR said that the industrial action began on Monday. Neither the rail company nor the rail workers’ union, RAU, indicated when the ban on extra hours would end. RAU represents train drivers and signallers as well as customer service and clerical staff.

The union said that it aimed to speed up collective bargaining negotiations with the employer representative, Palta, the organisation representing service sector businesses.

It noted that the previous collective agreement expired at the end of January and that there is currently no sign of agreement on a new one.

Extra unpaid hours a stumbling block

According to RAU chair Tero Palomäki, said that the talks had been conducted in a positive spirit. But he added that the biggest obstacle in reaching a settlement with VR has been the so-called ‘kiky’ or competitiveness pact – and an additional 24 hours of annual unpaid work introduced by the Juha Sipilä government in a bid to reduce the unit cost of labour.

"The employer is trying to introduce an unreasonably high price for the elimination of the competitiveness pact’s 24 hours and has been relying on external players to define a policy that is not from the railway sector," Palomäki declared in a statement on Friday.

Meanwhile VR said that it would try to minimise the impact of the industrial action on customers.

Customers and commuters have been advised to check the VR website for updates on train services (siirryt toiseen palveluun) (in Finnish).

Do you know your 'TES' from your 'Kiky'? If not, try this special edition of our All Points North podcast where we delve into the world of Finnish labour relations. You can listen to that episode via this embedded player and find new ones at Yle Areena, Spotify, iTunes or your normal pod player using the RSS feed.