Skip to content

Nurses take to streets, paperworkers' strike continues

The disputes hinge on pay and working conditions.

Over 2,000 healthcare workers demonstrated on Helsinki's streets on Saturday. Image: Retu Liikanen / Yle

A wave of strikes is impacting Finland, as people grapple with the rising cost of living.

Paper workers are out on strike at UPM, municipal staff are taking industrial action across the country—and a major nurses' strike is exposing cracks in the Finnish healthcare system.

This week's episode of Yle News' All Points North podcast hears from nurses who say the Finnish healthcare system is on life support as low pay repels people from the sector.

Article continues after audio.

Healthcare workers' salaries are the biggest point of contention as their strike, which began on April 1, continues with no agreement reached.

Nurses in Finland earn about 600 euros less per month than the average Finn and one-fifth less than nurses in neighbouring Nordic countries.

Employee unions claim low salaries have led to labour shortages which are impacting working conditions.

Nursing unions across Finland are calling for a five-year pay programme that would raise base salaries by 3.6 percent annually.

The pay rise would amount to 300 million euros in the first year, followed by 600 million euros in the following year. By the fifth year of the plan, the salary hike would cost taxpayers around 1.6 billion euros.

As part of a settlement for the unions, lawmakers would likely need to approve changes to the budget to fund pay raises for healthcare workers. A legislative proposal is meanwhile attempting to force striking healthcare workers back to work through the patient safety law.

Paper strike

The Paperworkers' Union has meanwhile continued striking at forestry products company UPM uninterrupted since the beginning of the year.

The National Conciliator's Office said on Saturday that it could not resume mediation immediately, since both sides' positions, despite some compromise, were still very far apart.

According to the National Conciliator's office, the Paperworkers' Union and UPM are trying to settle the labour dispute in four of the company's business areas: specialty paper, pulp, labels and biofuels.

While the National Conciliator's office offered an agreement proposal, neither side has yet accepted.

The board of the Paperworkers' Union will meet on Wednesday and make its decision based on the current situation.

Last year, the Paperworkers' Union concluded company-specific agreements with two other large forestry groups, Stora Enso and Metsä Group.

The strike at UPM has affected supplies of newsprint.