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Aviation workers could strike at start of winter school holiday in Finland

Norwegian airline and the travel agencies TUI and Tjäreborg may be hit by a workers' strike during Finland's school winter vacation week, which could affect travellers for days. Many schools in Finland close for the week starting on February 20.

Norwegianin lentokone matkalla Tukholmasta Helsinkiin 2. maaliskuuta.
Norwegianin lentokone matkalla Tukholmasta Helsinkiin 2. maaliskuuta. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

The Trade Union Pro, which represents private sector workers, and the aviation workers union IAU are threatening to strike on February 17 – if a collective bargaining agreement with the firm Airpro is not reached by that date.

TUI and Tjäreborg outsource their cabin personnel, security workers and ground staff from Airpro, which is owned outright by Finavia, Finland's state-owned airport maintenance firm. Norwegian uses ground services provided by the company.

If an agreement is not reached by February 17, security workers plan to strike between 2 and 6 pm that day. Other travel services would be affected between the hours of 3 to 7 pm, and airport hall services would be affected between 4 to 7 pm.

If the strike takes place, Airpro cabin crew on TUI and Tjäreborg would strike for 23 hours – starting at midnight Sunday, February 19 until 11 pm the next day.

Unions: Wages too low

One of the chief disputes between the parties concerns workers salaries. According to the head of the Trade Union Pro, Else-Mai Kirvesniemi, Airpro pays its workers too little.

"Wages and working conditions for both cabin and ground crews have remained well below industry standards," Kirvesniemi said.

Airpro flight attendants earn about 1,500 euros per month, which is about half of the normal wage in the industry, according to Kirvesniemi.

She says that Trade Union Pro and the IAU have tried to reach agreements independently with Airpro, but says that's not possible as long as Finavia continues its practice of paying low wages.

Airpro operates under agreements between the public sector union JHL, the Federation of Salaried Employees Pardia and the service sector union Palta.

Kirvesniemi apologised on behalf of the unions to affected travellers during the holiday in advance of the possible strike.

EDIT-This story originally stated that Norwegian uses cabin crew from Airpro. That's incorrect, the airline has its own cabin crew but will be affected by industrial action involving ground maintenance crews and airport staff.

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