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Municipal bosses: "Traffic chaos" to hit Helsinki on Friday as tram, metro and bus staff join political strike

Helsinki's local transport is set to grind to a halt on Friday as transport workers walk off the job in protest at government measures to force unemployed people into work.

Näkymä raitiovaunukiskoille Pasilassa tammikuussa 2016.
Image: Maarit Mustonen / Yle

The Local Government Employers group says that 'traffic chaos' is set to hit Helsinki on Friday after the public sector workers union, JHL, called a strike affecting staff on the tram, metro and bus networks in the city.

The JHL's 019 local branch is joining the protest called by the blue-collar labour confederation SAK on Friday 2 February, allowing members to walk off the job in order to attend the protest.

The protest was called in reaction to government measures to cut the benefits of any unemployed person who fails to work at least 18 hours over three months, or attend job-related training. 

The government's so-called 'activation measures' have been roundly criticised by unions, opposition politicians and unemployed people. A citizens' initiative opposing the measures quickly passed the threshold for consideration by parliament. 

It is now likely that demonstrators will not, however, be able to get to the rally by bus, tram or metro.

"There will be traffic chaos in Helsinki on Friday," said Markku Jalonen of the employers umbrella group. "Now in addition to the buses, tram and metro networks will be shut down. I regard this as out excessive, out of all proportion."

The details of the work stoppage are not yet clear, according to JHL chair Päivi Niemi-Laine. She told Yle that she only found out about the planned strike on Monday evening.

"We have made a decision in the union that we are supporting the demonstration on Friday," said Niemi-Laine. "It is a political demonstration and people are attending voluntarily. This transport stoppage does not in any way relate to the negotiating table (of municipal workers' pay and conditions) but is about the 'active model' and that this local branch wants to join the demo."

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