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Healthcare workers' strike postponed by two weeks

The main disputes between workers and employers — over salaries and employment contract stipulations — are still unresolved, according to National Conciliator, Vuokko Piekkala, who called the situation serious.

File photo of healthcare workers at a Covid ward. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

A nurses strike that was scheduled to start in more than a dozen hospital districts on Friday, 1 April, will be postponed for two weeks, the National Conciliator's office announced on Monday.

The change was prompted by labour minister Tuula Haatainen (SDP) who decided the strike should begin no earlier than April 15 at 6pm.

The planned strike affects around 40,000 nurses and paramedics working in 13 different hospital districts.

Healthcare worker representatives Tehy and the Finnish Union of Practical Nurses (SuPer) have previously issued warnings for a narrower strike — affecting around 25,000 nurses across six hospital districts — that was due to begin on 18 March, but the minister also postponed that action for two weeks.

The narrower strike is scheduled to begin on Friday 1 April at 6pm, unless an agreement on working conditions is reached.

The Tehy and SuPer unions have demanded salary increases of 3.6 percent above annual cost-of-living raises over the course of five years, in attempts to mitigate low pay in the profession. Employer groups, Local Government and County Employers (KT), have claimed that the unions' demands are far too costly for the public sector.

KT representatives met with Tehy and SuPer members under the guidance of National Conciliator Vuokko Piekkala to reach a consensus. Now that the planned strike date has been delayed, there is more time for negotiations.

Piekkala characterised the situation as serious, adding that the main disputes — over salaries and employment contract stipulations — were still unresolved.

If negotiations are left unresolved, broader disputes between health care workers' unions and employer representatives could spread further, affecting more hospital districts across the country, including in the capital region.