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Aviation workers' strike cripples Helsinki Airport

A four-hour strike by ground services crew at Helsinki airport on Friday caused disruption to air travellers in the latest industrial action over salaries paid by Finavia subsidiary Airpro. National carrier Finnair was forced to cancel over 90 flights. Service Union United PAM has accused the security firm Securitas of strikebreaking, a charge Palta denies.

Matkustajia menossa turvatarkastukseen Helsinki-Vantaan lentokentällä.
Helsinki Airport on March 17. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

A labour dispute between the Finnish Aviation Labour Union (IAU) and the Association of Service Sector Employers Palta about the wages and benefits of Airpro employees affected security check and passenger services at Helsinki Airport on Friday, as personnel in these areas staged a walkout from 3-7 pm.

Airpro is a subsidiary of state-owned airport operator Finavia, and stands accused of paying wages below the norm in the sector.

The Service Union United PAM, which is considering joining IAU in a sympathy strike, accused the Finnish branch of the security firm Securitas of sending in staff to replace the striking workers, a provocation that in effect breaks the strike.  

PAM’s organisational management director Niina Koivuniemi accused Securitas of acting in an egregious manner.

Palta, the union that is party to the ongoing labour dispute, says it is shocked by PAM’s accusation. Palta claims Securitas is working in a perfectly legal capacity at the airport in line with its service contract.

More walkouts may be in store next week

To try and mitigate the effect of the strike, state-owned airport operator Finavia asks passengers to arrive early and prepare for delays. The IAU has issued a warning of possible future walkouts scheduled for March 22, 23 and 24 from 2-6 pm.

The strike concerns the service company Airpro’s new general agreement, which came into force on February 1, after changes were made to update the agreement to extend working hours for the same pay. IAU was previously a party to the Airpro agreement, along with JHL and Pardia unions, but it now wants to negotiate a new deal.

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