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Airline strike could be largest ever

Finnair stopped selling tickets on Tuesday for the weekend's flights in order to avoid extra rescheduling in the event of a possible 24-hour strike by union workers starting on Friday.

Finnairin lentokone Helsinki-Vantaan lentokentällä 4. marraskuuta 2013.
If Friday's strike by aviation union workers goes ahead, all air traffic in Finland will be affected for at least 24 hours. Image: Kimmo Mäntylä / Lehtikuva

Bagged lunches were handed out to travellers at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport on Tuesday, as labour disputes disrupted meal services when more than 400 catering employees went on strike at midday.

The lunches to go were just a taste of the strike's first effects. If aviation industry representatives and union members cannot find common ground, further labour action will start on Friday at 3 pm and halt virtually all airline traffic in the country. The Finnish Aviation Union (IAU) and the Finnish Cabin Crew Union (SLSY) have announced that they will start the 24-hour strike if no progress is made in contract negotiations.

According to the Finnish Aviation Union's spokesperson Juhani Haapasaari, the work stoppage will be record-breaking: "It will be the biggest that's ever taken place in Finland."

The IAU says that such labour action will affect all of Finland's airports. Ground service staff including baggage handlers, ticket salespeople, check-in staff and mechanics all belong to the IAU union.

The strike would affect all Finnair and Blue1 flights departing from Helsinki. Finnair charter flights would not be directly affected. However, the lack of ground crew service would have an effect on them.

To avoid a strike, negotiations are still being carried out with the help of the state mediator. The Cabin Crew Union is continuing negotiations with its employers. For ground services, negotiations broke off on Tuesday afternoon and the next meeting is set for Wednesday at 2 pm.

Neither SAS (which operates Blue1) nor Finnair representatives were able to say which flights would be cancelled in the event of the strike.

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