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New solidarity strikes from rail workers as postal union expands industrial action

Efforts to resolve differences with employer Posti over new collective bargaining agreements ran aground on Sunday.

Lähijunia Helsingin rautatiesemalla.
The rail workers union RAU announced a series of 24-hour solidarity strikes to support Posti workers. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

The Postal and Logistics Workers’ Union, PAU, has announced that it will extend ongoing strike action until December. At the same time the union representing rail workers said it would embark on a series of rolling 24-hour solidarity strikes that would effectively stall rail traffic in early December.

The PAU's ongoing industrial action will expand to include clerical and sales staff. So far only letter and parcel sorting as well as delivery employees have been involved. The ongoing postal strike is also expected to affect Christmas mail delivery.

The union has been locked in a dispute with employer Posti over a new agreement covering terms and conditions of work for about 10,000 workers.

Both sides are also at odds over the fate of about 700 parcel sorting workers, who were transferred to a new collective agreement in August that effectively slashes their pay by what the union says amounts to as much as 30 percent.

Efforts spearheaded by national labour conciliator Vuokko Piekkala to resolve differences over the collective bargaining agreements ran aground on Sunday.

Rolling support strikes to affect rail traffic

RAU, the union representing rail workers, said on Monday that it would roll out a fresh round of solidarity strikes to support striking Posti employees. If postal workers and employers fail to agree on a way forward, clerical workers employed by state-owned rail company VR and Traffic Management Finland (Finrail), another state-owned firm, will embark on a 24-hour sympathy strike starting Friday 29 November.

The clerical personnel involved in the proposed sympathy strike perform duties such as customer service for passenger and freight traffic, ticket sales, freight traffic management, financial management as well as fault reporting and resolution. In the case of Finrail, the work stoppage will mainly affect traffic planners.

In addition, the industrial action will halt urban rail traffic in southern Finland for 24 hours from 2 December. It will effectively stop all electrically-powered rolling stock from operating in the Helsinki Regional Transport region as well as across southern Finland.

Moreover VR engine drivers working on commuter trains will be off the job from 3am on Monday 2 December until the same time the following morning, 3 December, when workers will once more report for duty.

Intercity and freight rail traffic will then stop operating from 3am on 3 December until 4 December. The solidarity strike will not affect Allegro train services to Russia, the union said.

Another 24-hour work stoppage is due to take place from 9 December, when traffic management operations will cease – except for duties related to the Allegro service. In practice, however, all other rail traffic will come to a complete halt on 9 December.

The industrial action will not include personnel or tasks that affect life, health, the environment or public safety, RAU said.

Solidarity strikes rolled out Monday

Sunday’s scuppered talks triggered a series of solidarity strikes by unions representing different sectors, such as aviation workers and seamen. On Monday morning, tens of thousands of people were hit by transportation disruptions due to the 24-hour stoppages.

The industrial action is intended to support postal workers locked in the wage dispute with employer Posti.

National airline Finnair cancelled hundreds of flights, passenger ferries did not set sail and more than half of buses operated by Helsinki Regional Transport were not put into service.

Meanwhile dockworkers have announced another 2-day support strike due to begin on Thursday. Seamen have already refused to board Finnish-flagged vessels in port, in effect keeping them in Finland until the dispute is resolved.

From Thursday ships registered in other countries will also be prevented from loading and unloading their cargoes in Finland unless and until the postal workers' dispute is resolved.

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