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Monday's papers: Transport strikes, battle against snus, a no to high-tech hunting

Union action affecting planes, passenger ferries, and buses in the capital, dominate the morning’s front pages.

Lakkovahteja Pohjolan Liikenteen Pasilan varikon edessä
Union picket at a bus depot in Pasila on Monday morning. Image: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports that only about 25 percent of buses in Helsinki were operating as of 6am on Monday morning.

Several unions called 24-hour strikes in support of the Postal and Logistical Workers’ Union PAU over its stalled contract talks with employers.

A strike by the Transport Workers’ Union that started at 3am Monday and continues until 3am Tuesday will keep passenger ferries in harbour and most buses used by Helsinki Regional Transport HSL to provide public transportation services will remain at their depots.

Meanwhile, a strike by the Aviation Workers’ Union is expected to affect over 20,000 airline passengers. Because of labour action, Finnair has cancelled around 300 flights.

Ilta-Sanomat further reports that some other airlines have announced cancellations of departures from Finnish airports. So far they include Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines. Airport operator Finavia has warned that the effects of the strike will likely carry over well into Tuesday and is urging travelers to check for details with their airline.

General strike looming?

In an analysis of the labour market situation, Iltalehti political reporter Lauri Nurmi writes that years of pent up pressure is now exploding, and Finland is on the teetering on the verge of a general strike.

On Sunday, the Industrial Union and Union of Salaried Employees issued a strike warning that if carried out would mean a walk out by tens of thousands of workers and a near shutdown of Finland's exports in December. And this, Nurmi points out, is happening even before the public sector begins new contract talks.

Many people, he says, are wondering what is going on with Finnish society.

The answer, according to this writer, is to be found in the impact of globalisation, the recent history of national politics, and to some extent in personal clashes between employers and union leaders.

Above all, though, he argues that it is the result of pent-up tensions since 2015 when the centre and right pushed for a highly contentious labour market pact aimed at improving the nation's competitive position by keeping labour costs under control.

Now with a cabinet headed by a Social Democratic prime minister, it would be best, in Nurmi's view, for the government to let labour market organisations battle things out.

The unions would do the Social Democratic Party a disservice by making demands for the government to step in. This just what caused problems in 2015 and 2016 when the government interfered in what Nurmi describes as the labour market's "balance of terror".

Battle against snus

Snus is a kind of tobacco, typically held in the mouth between the lips and gums by users. The sale of snus is banned in the European Union, except in Sweden, but import for personal use is allowed.

Helsingin Sanomat looks at efforts to cut, or eliminate the use of snus, especially among youth.

Finland has been engaged in a "battle" against snus for a decade, the paper writes, but the results are not encouraging. The use of snus has actually increased, even though sales are banned.

The use of snus by young people has exploded during the past decade. Helsingin Sanomat points to a report issued by the National Institute for Health and Welfare a few weeks ago, stating that 35 percent of young Finnish males and 19 percent of females have used snus at some time. One in ten young Finns said they had used snus during the previous month.

An annual school-age health survey this year found that close to 13 percent of upper secondary school boys use snus on a daily basis. In just two years, the number of girls in the same age group using snus ever day has tripled to over 3 percent.

A task force on tobacco use at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health set forth two proposals last year aimed at cutting the use of snus.

Officials believe that sports organisations are best positioned to deal with the problem. One proposal is to threaten sports organisations with cuts in financial support unless they commit to anti-tobacco efforts.

The second prong of the attack is targeted at imports. Snus comes into the country mainly across the Swedish-Finnish land border in the north, or onboard passenger ferries, some as legal imports by travelers, some as smuggled contraband.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is now looking at severely cutting the legal import limits from one kilo per adult during any 24-hour period to just 100 grams of snus.

No hunting with drones

Throughout history, hunters have exploited the latest technology in tracking and bring down game, but authorities in Finland are reminding them that the there are limits to how the latest high-tech, drones and GPS, can be used.

Kuopio's Savon Sanomat writes that the state forest management administrator Metsähallitus has received reports of instances of hunters using drones to drive game off frozen lakes towards waiting hunters. The use of any motorised device in hunting is forbidden by law.

And, while the use of GPS tracking on hunting dogs is legal, this as well has caused some problems, according to Metsähallitus. Some hunters have used dogs to drive game, tracking by GSP and themselves driven by car to get a shot. By law hunters cannot be closer than 100 metres to a motor vehicle when discharging their weapons.

Metsähallitus is reminding hunters that drones can be used to observe game animals, but not for the purpose of tracking them during a hunt.

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