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Finnair cancels flights over planned aviation workers' sympathy strike

The national airline said that it had already cancelled 24 flights due to the planned strike action.

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Finnair said that up to 300 additional flights could be grounded if aviation workers begin strike action on Monday. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

National flag carrier Finnair said on Sunday that it had already cancelled two dozen flights ahead of a planned sympathy strike by the Aviation Workers Union, IAU, due to begin on Monday if no agreement on wages is reached between postal workers and employer Posti, according to daily Helsingin Sanomat.

The airline also announced the flight cancellations on its website and urged passengers to check that their contact information is up to date so they can be reached with potential re-routing information.

The IAU announced the industrial action to support postal workers locked in a dispute with Posti over a new collective bargaining agreement.

Postal workers have been on strike since 11 November after failing to reach agreement with Posti over terms and conditions of work. The strike is expected to continue until mid-December unless both sides manage to see eye to eye.

Both sides have been meeting frequently to try to work through their differences, with talks continuing through Sunday.

300 more flights could be grounded

Meanwhile the IAU said on its website that a breakthrough in the talks between the employer Posti and the Post and Logistics Union, PAU, might still occur on Sunday. It said that if an agreement is reached, it would call off the planned strike immediately.

However Finnair said that even if a settlement is reached on Sunday, flights would still be cancelled. Finnair communications chief Päivyt Tallqvist told HS that if no agreement is reached and aviation workers go through with the proposed strike, the airline would have to cancel 300 additional flights, affecting up to 20,000 passengers.

On Sunday negotiators were said to be holding talks on two different tracks. Employee and employer representatives met at 10.00am to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement.

At the same time, the issue of 700 parcel sorting workers who were transferred to a new agreement with lower wages was due to be resolved by 3.00pm. That deadline was later pushed back to 5.30pm.

Support strikes to hamper passenger ferries

Possible support strikes by unions in other transportation sectors could also affect shipping and passenger ferries. If no agreement is reached and strike action goes ahead, vessels flying Finnish flags and operated by Viking Line, Tallink Silja and Eckerö Line will likely remain in harbour.

Viking Line spokesperson Johanna Boijer-Svahnström said she hoped for a breakthrough in the negotiations so that the knock-on strikes could be avoided. "Otherwise we are talking about thousands of passengers. That would be a very serious situation," she added.

She noted that the later the talks continue, the more likely that the vessels would not set sail. Passengers are advised to check cruise lines’ websites and social media channels for updates on the impact of the potential strikes.

Buses to remain in depots

Meanwhile Helsinki Regional Transport, HSL, said that some buses will not leave its depots regardless of whether or not postal workers and Posti reach a settlement on Sunday. A support strike by the Transport Workers’ Union, AKT, is expected to have a major impact on public transportation in the capital.

On a daily basis, 1,265 buses ply their routes in Helsinki. Striking workers would mean that the majority would not go out on the roads.

If the strikes are called off the possible impact could be corrected relatively quickly as it takes far less to get buses into traffic than planes, for example.

However the longer it takes for both sides to reach consensus, the greater the impact will be. Commuters can check for updates on the situation on the HSL website and via its social media channels.

Edit: Updated at 4.37pm to add information about the potential impact of other support strikes on passenger shipping and Helsinki public transportation.

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