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Compromise Sought to Prevent Nurses' Mass Resignation

A panel of mediators is now expected to present a compromise proposal by the start of next week aimed at averting the planned resignations of nearly 13,000 nurses scheduled for November 19.

The Union of Health and Social Care Professionals, Tehy, says that the action will go ahead unless municipal employers agree to contracts with much higher raises than an offered 13 percent. The union is pressing for 24 percent.

The head of a panel set up by the Ministry of Labour to mediate in the dispute, Risto Pelkonen, announced on Monday that a compromise proposal will be forthcoming early next week. His aim is to find a settlement between the union and employers, or at very least confirm that the nurses will be walking off the job.

He says that the situation has to be settled one way or another, because if the mediation effort fails, the state and local governments will need time for more preparation to deal with the lack of staff.

Monday was the last day for nurses who signed on to proposed mass resignations to withdraw from the plan. Only a small fraction, about 300, did so.

Union officials say that no decision has been made to take action against members who changed their minds about taking part in the mass resignation. They point out that participation is voluntary and a matter of personal choice.

Legal expert expects settlement

Analysing the situation Monday, the professor of labour law at the University of Helsinki, Kari-Pekka Tiitinen, said that if the planned proposal looks relatively reasonable to both sides, he expects that a settlement will be forthcoming. Even though neither side may be happy with a compromise, the threshold for rejecting it will be very high because of the consequences.

However, Tiitinen also pointed out that compared with the type of contract talks carried out under the auspices of the official state labour market mediator, the work of this mediation panel is dependent upon the prestige of its members. He added, though, that in the past the work of similar panels has lead to results.

Tiitinen urged both employers and the government not to consider emergency legislation to prevent the nurses' action. Such a move would require an unlikely five-sixths majority in Parliament to be able to come into force in time.

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