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Monday's papers: Civilian service for women, cracking down on strikes, rare Midsummer heat treat

Compulsory civilian service for women, business lobby's bid to restrict strikes, Finland might get lucky this Midsummer.

Ihmiset viettävät lämmintä kesäpäivää Esplanadin puistossa Helsingissä.
Sun worshippers soak up some rays at Helsinki's central Esplanade. Image: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva

Finland’s new Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen has floated the idea of two to three months of civilian service for women, Tampere-based daily Aamulehti reports on Monday morning. Kaikkonen told the paper that women should not be obligated to perform the same kind of military service that is now compulsory for men.

"It’s great that we have a system that allows women to perform military service if they want. Maybe we should find out if it would be a good idea for women to complete two to three months civilian service as a complement to the current system. Do we have suitable tasks and would it provide additional value for society and the people involved?"

The new government has announced plans to set up a parliamentary working group to analyse the current system of military service. Kaikkonen said that it is likely that compulsory military service will continue to form the backbone of Finnish defence.

"We need this kind of reserve. Geographically, Finland is a large country," the paper quoted him as saying.

Kaikkonen said that the government would use its four-year term to conduct a careful scrutiny of the programme and would not make any major changes, but might defer possible modifications to a subsequent administration.

He stressed that it would not be enough for government to support possible changes, but said that they would require a broader consensus.

Business lobby moves to curb strike action

The influential business lobby group EK wants government to set up a tripartite working group to find ways to curb the right to strike. While the proposal was on the table during government talks, it was not eventually written into the new government programme.

Turku-based daily Turun Sanomat writes on Monday that restricting the right to strike was a major policy point for the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) and the group is now pushing for a separate working group to consider the matter. The end game would be to curb the right to political strikes, hike fines for illegal strikes and root out relatively large solidarity strikes. However the group isn’t setting out to interfere with strike action enshrined in collective bargaining agreements.

"Political strikes should be limited as in other Nordic countries, because workers end up paying for them. For example that’s what happened with a series of strikes over [the government’s easy] dismissal proposals. Sanctions for illegal strikes [fines] are disproportionate to the damage that strikes cause. We are disappointed that the government has not set up a working group to improve the working climate, although it is wisely trying to stabilise the labour market," said EK director Ilkka Oksala.

Not surprisingly, the country’s largest blue collar union confederation the SAK did not warm to the EK’s proposal. SAK chair Jarkko Eloranta said the organisation would prefer to reform the current system of labour market negotiations and agreements, much the way it was before ex-PM Juha Sipilä’s competitiveness pact, which rolled back some worker entitlements.

"We don’t see political strikes as the kind of problem that requires a separate working group to be set up," Eloranta declared.

The EK has however said that it will participate in a tripartite working group aimed at increasing the employment rate to 75 percent, in accordance with the new administration’s target.

Midsummer highs could climb to 30 degrees

Holidaymakers should brace for a hot Midsummer weekend, if tabloid daily Ilta-Sanomat is to be believed. The paper turned to Finnish Meteorological Institute weatherman Paavo Korpela for a weekend outlook and learned that daytime highs are expected to soar to between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius.

"Temperatures on Midsummer Eve [Friday] will be close to sultry, at least in southern and central areas. I guess I can venture to say that on Midsummer it will be quite close to 30 degrees," Korpela promised.

The meteorologist pointed out that Finnish weather forecasting company Foreca was predicting a Midsummer Eve heat surge in excess of 25 degrees in places such as Helsinki, Tampere and Mikkeli. In addition the mercury is expected to climb to 27 degrees in Lahti and Kouvola as well as in Joensuu. Although conditions on the west coast might be cooler, residents there won’t escape the heat either, Korpela said.

IS scoured FMI data and determined that a warm Midsummer is a rare treat in Finland. Since 1961, the measuring station at the Helsinki Airport recorded +25-degree highs on just seven occasions on Midsummer Eve. Meanwhile Lappeenranta saw similarly warm weather 12 times since 1961, while Jyväskylä, Oulu and Joensuu enjoyed such balmy temperatures eight times.

Much farther north in Sodänkylä, residents basked in 25-degree weather just twice since 1961, and should not expect to do so this year.

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