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24-hour strike hits public transportation, health care, schools and daycare, retail

A one-day strike by labour unions on Wednesday is slowing public transportation in the Helsinki region.

Metro Matinkylän asemalla.
Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Finnish industrial workers join service, food, and power sector workers in a 24-hour strike on 3 October to protest a government bill that would make it easier for small firms to fire employees. Welfare sector union JHL also launched an indefinite overtime ban starting 1 October.

These measures mean that public services are affected by walkouts in many key sectors. Read on to find out how.

1. Public transport

Metro and tram services may come to a halt in the capital region. Most public transport conductors are JHL members, all of whom are banned from working overtime or switching shifts.

Helsinki City Transport (HKL) said that routes may have to be dropped if conductors fall ill and no replacement drivers can be found. The organisation said it cannot say in advance which routes and services will be affected.

Possible changes to schedules will be announced on the HSL website, the HSL app as well as a separate info service.

A release from the Tampere region transport operator Nysse said that certain bus routes may have to be dropped without warning. The service will inform commuters in advance of changes to the schedules of buses 1, 8, 24, 28 and 35.

2. Kindergartens and schools

The JHL strike will also affect daycare services.

"The effects will be far-reaching, there simply won't be enough employees on hand," JHL chair Päivi Niemi-Laine told news agency STT. "Each parent will need to plan the best way to collect their children from daycare. Employers now need to focus on providing quality service despite the action, and to prevent danger or injury."

Switching care times for children may be more difficult during the industrial action, which does not affect child minders or babysitters.

Workers such as school directors, janitors and cooks are affiliated with JHL, meaning that these school services will face disruption. Teachers belong to a different union, so classroom teaching itself will not be affected by the work restrictions.

3. Shops

The Finnish Food Workers' Union (SEL) also begins its strike action on Wednesday. Employees will be on strike at the food companies Atria, HKScan, Olvi, Sinebrychoff, Hartwall, Fazer Confectionary and Saarioinen. The industrial action does not include the dairy, bakery or poultry industries.

Certain products may be sold out in grocery stores, but labour market chief Mika Lallo from the Finnish Food and Drink Industries' Federation previously said that replacement product groups could be supplied.

4. Hospitals, health centres, elder care

Some hospital and health centre staff such as nurses and maintenance workers are JHL members. Some 60,000 employees in the social and health care sector belong to the union. Niemi-Laine said that the work ban will likely affect surgery schedules.

"Last spring when there was an overtime stoppage we noticed that there weren't enough employees in the social and health care sector for the system to be maintained without working extra," she said.

The ban on overtime and shift swaps may also affect elder care and home care services.

The service sector union PAM will also participate in the day-long strike on Wednesday 3 October. The union also instructed members that starting Wednesday and running until 23 October, they are not to engage in overtime work. PAM said it opposes the government's proposal to make firing easier for firms with fewer than 20 employees. It argued that the measure would weaken workers' protection against dismissal.

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