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Bank workers announce Xmas holiday strike following breakdown in contract talks

Bank workers in Finland have threatened strike action on 28 and 29 December. Negotiations aimed at settling a labour dispute between employers and employees broke down on Wednesday.

Asiakas ja henkilökuntaa pankissa.
Image: Juha-Pekka Inkinen / Yle

Banking sector employer and employee representatives scuppered contract negotiations in the office of the National conciliator Minna Helle on Wednesday. The discussions were abandoned after both sides failed to reach agreement on proposals concerning weekend work.

State mediator Helle said that worker representatives issued a strike warning for 28 and 29 December. Unions representing the workers also announced another strike on 4 and 5 January.

No phone services, no loan counselling

A strike between the Christmas and New Year holidays would effectively mean that banks would not re-open their doors after 27 December until next year. In addition, customers will not be able to reach customer service agents by phone and no loan counselling services will be available.

"For the moment there is no solution to the labour dispute on the horizon. The main reason for the disagreement is that the parties have very different views on the conditions for working on the weekend," Helle explained.

The unions representing the workers want banks to agree on the terms and conditions for weekend duty in broader local negotiations. However, employers want to be able to call on staff to work weekends after discussions with personnel.

Adding provisions for weekend work to current agreements involves settling pay and also requires hammering out different types of wording. Banking sector employees say they prefer steady salary increases similar to other private firms in the financial sector.  However employers want greater say in determining personal pay rises.

Protracted dispute in sight

According to Helle, both sides are so far apart on this key issue that it is likely that the dispute will be protracted.

"Everything has been done to resolve this dispute so far. Negotiations should only resume when there is some issue where it will be possible to move forward," she noted.

The parties have so far not agreed on a time for resuming the talks. Helle said that she will maintain contact with both sides and that talks would continue as soon as the right conditions are present.

The contract negotiations affect some 20,000 workers in the financial sector.

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