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Finnair may need to cancel flights as aviation strike continues

Finnair aims to complete cargo flights that bring protective equipment and Covid at-home tests to Finland, with the strike set to last two weeks.

Finnair did not have to cancel flights on Monday or Tuesday, due to the aviation strike. Image: Jani Saikko / Yle

Finnish national airline Finnair is concerned that the ongoing aviation strike could lead to the cancellation of some flights.

The aviation unions began the strike action on Monday 17 January, which affects the operations of Finnair, Finnair Technical Services, GA Telesis Engine Services, ground support equipment services firm TCR and Hub Logistics.

Jaakko Schildt, Finnair's Chief Operating Officer, told Yle that although the strike did not cause flight cancellations on Monday or Tuesday, the company is preparing for such an eventuality.

"We prepared for the strike by taking precautionary measures, but by the end of the week this will start to affect our traffic," Schildt said, adding that around 30 percent of the company's technical staff are currently working.

Finnair is also able to service their aircraft at selected European destinations and in the United States.

"We will not compromise on safety under any circumstances. If there are no mechanics to ensure airworthiness, the planes will be left grounded," he said.

This means that the company will be forced to cancel flights if an aircraft cannot be serviced and repaired.

"We have made a priority plan for the flights that will have to be cancelled. We definitely want to keep cargo flights coming to Finland. For example, there is now a lot of at-home tests and protective equipment on regular scheduled flights, as well as on charter flights," Schildt added.

The S Group said last week that it had flown a batch of rapid Covid at-home tests from China to Finland on a Finnair cargo plane.

The labour dispute reaches conciliation table

Finnair says that it has appealed to all parties to settle the dispute between the unions. The labour dispute is due to trade union Pro's efforts to obtain the right to enter into a collective agreement for ITA, an organisation that belongs to the trade union Pro.

ITA has seceded from Aviation Union IAU, which has a collective agreement with employers in the Service Sector Employers group Palta. According to Pro, both Palta and the IAU oppose ITA's right to enter into its own collective agreement.

The disagreement is being mediated by Finland's national mediator, but talks were suspended on Monday due to a lack of progress between the opposing sides. The strike is due to last two weeks.

"It is good that the strike has a deadline, but we hope that such uncertainty will be resolved as soon as possible, as it is not sustainable in terms of the security of supply," Schildt said.

Finnair added that it will strive to inform customers in advance about possible flight cancellations so that customers can prepare for any possible changes.

The ITA said it has tried to discuss the possibility of leaving flights containing equipment for the security of supply outside of the parameters of the strike, but the association said it has not received sufficiently detailed information regarding these flights.