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Airport strike looms on Friday as union rejects compromise

Ground staff at Finnish airports will probably down tools on Friday afternoon following their union's dismissal of a proposed settlement. The union says it would have unfairly benefited workers in predominantly-male sectors of airport work.

Matkustajia menossa turvatarkastukseen Helsinki-Vantaan lentokentällä iltapäivällä 3. maaliskuuta.
Passengers faced long queues for security checks at Helsinki Airport during last Friday's industrial action. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

Another strike at Finnish airports appears likely to go ahead on Friday. The Finnish Aviation Union (IAU) rejected the latest compromise proposal put forth by the national labour conciliator on Wednesday afternoon.

The next walkout by airport ground staff is scheduled for 3-7 pm on Friday, March 17.

Their employer, Airpro, says it would have accepted the proposal, as does its representative in the negotiations, the Service Sector Employers' group Palta. Airpro is owned by the state-owned Finavia, the former civil aviation authority. 

"Quite incomprehensible"

IAU president Juhani Haapasaari claims that the proposal was tailored to meet the employers' demands.

"Also, this settlement submission would not have brought about gender equality," he told Yle. "If this compromise had been approved, there would in practice have been a situation where we would have reached an agreement that satisfied us in regard to the baggage handling and ramp side but there still would have been contract competition on the female-dominated side, in other words check-in, gate services and security checks. We consider this proposal to be quite incomprehensible, as it tries to fish around for industrial peace by promising something for the male-dominated side."

More job action possible next week

The trade union's rejection of the bid makes it likely that the next strike will take place on Friday afternoon. There is also a looming threat of further walkouts on March 22-24 unless a deal is reached by then.

State labour mediator Minna Helle submitted the latest settlement submission late Tuesday. However she predicted that there would be no easy resolution of the long-simmering dispute.

"The negotiating situation has been locked up for a long time, with the two sides' positions very far apart," she said in a statement.

Finavia says it is still too early to predict the impact of Friday's likely walkout. The previous such strike was last Friday, when Finnair cancelled about one third of its flights, mostly on domestic routes.

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