Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Friday evening that government is committed to providing financial support to help ease the pain of possible major job losses stemming from planned cutbacks in oil processing in Naantali.
"Together we need to see opportunities and a vision for the future that can create hope in the future for people, families and workers. And it’s important that we do this work together," Marin said in comments to the media Friday evening.
The PM said that her understanding was that the planned closure of the Naanatli refinery was in line with Neste’s long-term strategy to transition toward more environmentally-friendly energy solutions.
She noted that in this regard, the government could draw down on hundreds of millions of euros potentially available to Finland from the EU’s Just Transition Fund to help Naantali pivot toward a greener economy.
Marin visited the city in southwest Finland with Economic Affairs Minister Mika Lintilä and Labour Minister, Tuula Haatainen. The field trip followed an announcement on Monday by state-owned oil company Neste that it planned to begin negotiations at slashing jobs and possibly shuttering oil refining operations in the town.
On Friday the ministers held discussions with managers at the Naantali refinery and also met with employees and city representatives.
Haatainen: Resources not an issue
Labour Minister Tuula Haatainen said that it is important for the people facing the threat of job losses to have a sense of confidence that everything possible will be done to ensure they find new work.
She noted that a broad united front had already begun the work of managing the shock and added that creating new employment opportunities would not depend on money.
"Everything that is being planned and done for the people who are in danger of losing their jobs will receive full support from the state. This area also has good resources. The employment administration has more than 10 million euros in unallocated funding so there are resources and it will not depend on money," Haatainen told reporters.
Lintilä: Rapporteur to be appointed
Meanwhile Lintilä said that he believed that the extremely difficult situation would give birth to a new beginning. He added that his ministry plans to appoint a rapporteur with solid industrial networks who would be able to identify new opportunities for the region.
"Preferably someone with their heart and soul in Naantali and southwest Finland and who would bring something concrete to the situation."
He said that the rapporteur will be appointed "as soon as possible."
Working group set up
Earlier on Friday, Lintilä told Yle’s breakfast talk show Ylen aamu that if Neste proceeds with plans to close the refinery, government will set up a structural working group.
Meanwhile on Monday Marin had already been in touch with Naantali mayor Jouni Mutanen. At the time she stressed that the government would shoulder responsibility for a possible refinery closure and that it would support workers as well as the region in a difficult situation.
Mutanen called on government to implement change management measures to support workers and to cushion the blow of potential financial losses to the city and region, if the planned redundancies materialise.
The closure of the refinery is expected to considerably erode the city’s corporate and municipal tax revenues. However city leaders say that it is too early to assess its full financial impact.
The city itself has joined forces with regional bodies to create a change management group. The group includes representatives from the city, the local centre for economic development, transport and the environment (Ely-keskus), the business community, training providers and other key organisations. It aims to identify ways to provide new training and employment opportunities for displaced workers.
Edit: Updated on 19 September at 10:13 to clarify that Finland has access to the EU's Just Transition Fund.