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Nurses unions threaten strike action

The strike would last for two weeks and would affect six hospital districts.

The action would also apply to any firms or cooperatives owned by or closely associated with the hospital districts. Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle

Tehy, the Union of Health and Social Care Services, and the Finnish Union of Practical Nurses (SuPer) have issued a strike warning to six hospital districts across Finland, including the capital city region.

The strike would last for two weeks and would also apply to any firms or cooperatives owned by or closely associated with the hospital districts.

According to a press release issued by Tehy and SuPer, the strike would begin on Friday 18 March at 6 am and end on Friday 1 April at 6 am. It would include around 25,000 union members. Measures would be put in place to prevent life-threatening situations for patients.

The organisations have reportedly taken the step in response to employer representatives' failure to address the acute shortage of healthcare workers and subsequent crisis in the social and healthcare sector.

"The pandemic revealed how fragile our healthcare system is, especially in prolonged crises. The capacity of our social and healthcare must be strengthened so it reaches the same level as other Nordic countries. There is a broad national consensus about this," said Silja Paavola, chair of SuPer.

Tehy and SuPer suspended municipal sector contract negotiations with employer organisation KT on Monday, citing an inability to agree on preconditions.

On Tuesday, the nurse unions also announced a ban on overtime and shift work for the entire municipal sector.

Six hospital districts affected

The strike would apply to the hospital districts of Northern Ostrobothnia, Southwest Finland, Pirkanmaa and Helsinki and Uusimaa.

It will also include the North Savo hospital district, with the exception of the state-owned enterprise Kysteri, and the Central Finland district, with the exception of the Regional Health Care Centre.

The press release states that based on negotiations, emergency care will be provided in the above-mentioned hospital districts in case of life-threatening situations or to prevent serious injury.

3.6% increase in salaries

Tehy and SuPer have recommended a "rescue" programme for the social and healthcare services sector to help solve the nationwide shortage of staff.

This includes a 3.6 percent increment in healthcare workers' wages over five years, over and above the standard wage increases guaranteed each year in sectoral bargaining agreements.

"We are seeking a solution to the nurse shortage and have proposed a rescue programme for the social and healthcare industry, just like the political decision-makers have urged us to. However, employer organisations did not want to discuss the matter at all during negotiations," Tehy chair Millariikka Rytkönen stated, adding that the staff shortage is the biggest obstacle to strengthening healthcare capacity in Finland.

The unions said they expect employers in municipalities as well as government officials to propose concrete solutions to help resolve the situation.