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School closures expected as municipal strikes spread to more Finnish cities

Tampere and Kuopio are likely to see school closures and reduced public services on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Public sector employees demonstrating in Oulu last week. Image: Risto Degerman

Public sector employees are carrying out a series of strikes aimed at pressuring employers' groupings to accept wage rise demands.

The unions taking part in industrial action right now represent, among others, nurses, teachers, doctors and staff from schools and early childhood education and other municipal services.

Minister of Labour Tuula Haatainen (SDP) has taken the rare step of appointing a conciliation board to mediate the dispute in the municipal sector. The main sticking point in negotiations centres around employee salary programmes, which aim to improve salaries over and above annual cost-of-living rises.

Municipal workers' groups have previously rejected a reconciliation proposal submitted by Finland's National Labour Conciliator which covered all of the more than 420,000 employees in the municipal sector.

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Schools, services hit in Tampere and Kuopio

The series of strikes called by the Negotiation Organisation for Public Sector Professionals (Juko) is the largest strike see in the municipal sector in decades, largely affecting elementary education, early childhood education, library and museum services.

Juko's member unions have called their members out on strike in Kuopio and Tampere on Tuesday and Wednesday 12-13 April.

In Tampere, the city has decided to close schools during the strike, saying that without a sufficient number of staff, the students' right to a safe study environment would be otherwise jeopardized.

Kuopio will also be limiting city services, suspending both elementary and upper secondary classes. The strike will not, however, affect schools in Alava and Paloaho.

Last week, thousands of municipal employees were on strike in Jyväskylä, Rovaniemi, Oulu and Turku.

A strike warning has also been issued for Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa. That action, though, is not scheduled to start until after Easter, on Tuesday 19 April.

Nursing strike continues in six hospital districts

A strike by nursing staff in six hospital districts began on 1 April. With some operational exceptions, it includes the hospital districts of North Ostrobothnia, North Savo, Southwest Finland, Pirkanmaa, Helsinki and Uusimaa, and Central Finland.

At this point, there are about 25,000 nurses on strike. The current action is set to continue until 15 April.

If no agreement is reached by mid-month, this strike will expand to seven more hospital districts, namely South Karelia, North Karelia, Kymenlaakso, Päijät-Häme, Satakunta, South Ostrobothnia, and Lapland.

If this happens, it will then include a total of 13 hospital districts and approximately 40,000 nursing professionals.