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Industrial Union to join day-long strike, extending walkout to 30,000 employees

Finnish industrial workers will join service, food, and electric workers in a 24-hour strike on 3 October to protest a bill making it easier to fire employees.

Hitsaaja työskentelee telakalla.
Photo from the Meyer Turku shipyard. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

The Industrial Union of Finland has declared a political strike in protest of a bill proposed by the Finnish government to make it easier for companies with less than 20 employees to lay off workers. The union will join the Trade Union Pro, the Service Union United (PAM), the Finnish Electrical Workers' Union, and the Finnish Food Workers' Union SEL in laying down their tools on Wednesday, 3 October for 24 hours.

The walkout supplements earlier plans by several unions to implement an overtime ban that will last for most of the month of October. This latest move marks an escalation of union opposition to the government plan to take away standard dismissal protections in smaller firms.

"We wouldn't have wanted to go this far, but the stubbornness of Juha Sipilä's centre-right government has left us with no other choice," Industrial Union chair Riku Aalto said in a Friday press release.

Sipilä won't withdraw the proposal

Prime Minister Sipilä said on Thursday in an Yle interview that the government will not withdraw its proposal, but might be willing to lower the 20-employee threshold in order to limit the scope of the new policy, and extend the waiting times associated with the bill's new rules allowing small business owners to dismiss employees for personal reasons.

The Industrial Union says the PM's offer is not acceptable.

"It's not enough. Their idea in effect creates a two-tiered labour market: those who can be dismissed on lighter grounds, and those who still enjoy the current dismissal protections," Aalto replied.

Trade Union Pro's president Jorma Malinen told the government that it would be wise to sit down and negotiate with the unions, if it wanted to avoid even more industrial action.

Pro suggests opening up local collective bargaining negotiations to unorganised companies, in line with the competitiveness pact, instead of adopting the bill.

"This would facilitate employment in small workplaces better than crippling dismissal protections," Malinen said in a press release.

The Industrial Union's Aalto told Yle that the alternative Malinen mentioned had been proposed earlier, but was rejected by the business owners' group Federation of Finnish Enterprises.

Over 30,000 striking employees in all

The Industrial Union says that 22,000 of its employees will lay down their tools at 150 different locations on Wednesday.

The Trade Union Pro reports that about 5,000 of its members in 100 companies such as forest industry giant UPM, stainless steel manufacturer Outokumpu, and marine and energy machinery manufacturer Wärtsilä.

The service workers' union PAM says that about 1,000 of its members will participate in 94 different locations, and that its strike will be limited to property maintenance, cleaning and company food service employees that work in the industrial sector.

About 1,000 members of the Finland's Electrical Workers' Union will also take part in the strike in 150 larger industrial firms, and the Finnish Ford Workers' Union SEL has also announced that 4,500 of its workers in 15 workplaces will take part, affecting the food industry companies of Atria, Hartwall, Fazer Confectionary and Saarioinen.

Overtime ban will also begin on Wednesday

PAM and Pro will also begin an overtime ban on Wednesday that will last until Tuesday, 23 October. Union employees participating in the ban will refuse to work overtime in the retail, hospitality and property management sectors, for example, in addition to Finland's Alko stores and pharmacies.

Both the strike and the overtime ban do not extend to workers who do what is considered emergency or safety work that prevents life-threatening situations from occurring.

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