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SAK denies minister's claim that strikes have election motives

Blue Reform minister Sampo Terho claims unions are arranging strikes to boost voter support for the SDP, a claim refuted by Finland's largest union confederation.

Jarkko Eloranta
SAK President Jarkko Eloranta Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Jarkko Eloranta, president of Finland's largest union confederation SAK, has responded to Blue Reform minister Sampo Terho's comments on Saturday accusing upcoming labour strikes of being veiled election campaigns. He says the claim is entirely without grounds.

"It [the industrial action] is not in any way associated with the election, as it is the government itself that has brought this labour market situation about with their own actions. In this respect, any claims like this are very strange," the SAK boss told the public broadcaster Yle.

Appearing on Yle's morning talk show on Saturday, Minister of European Affairs, Culture and Sport Sampo Terho said that labour organisations in Finland are supporting the campaign of the Social Democratic Party with their strike action. He said it is clear that the unions want SDP chair Antti Rinne elected as the next prime minister in April's parliamentary elections.

Sampo Terho
Blue Reform Minister Sampo Terho Image: Yle

SAK's Eloranta replied later in the day that all three central labour organisations in Finland have made their opposition to the government plan to weaken dismissal protections known, and they have criticized the measure openly since the spring.

He said that the Blue Reform political party's poor polling results have likely led Terho to "make up claims out of thin air". The latest public opinion polls have consistently suggested that the Blues enjoy just over one percent of the Finnish population's support.

Bill is "fuzzy" on personal grounds for dismissals

During his television appearance, Terho also accused the "union elite" of making up lies about "arbitrary dismissals" for things like external appearance.

"It seems the government itself doesn't even know the grounds for dismissing a worker for personal reasons," Eloranta replied, referring to Employment Minister Jari Lindström's inability to list possible personal reasons for firing workers during parliamentary discussion of the bill.

"The legislative proposal is quite fuzzy in this area," Eloranta said.

The leader of Finland's largest labour group, with close to one million members and 18 trade unions on board, says it is in the government's hands how the conflict over the dismissal bill and union reaction will develop moving forward.

"If the bill is withdrawn and we can engage in genuine negotiations, then we will call off our organizational activities," Eloranta said.

Finland's union for industrial workers announced on Friday that it would be joining food service employees in the JHL union in strike action from 25-28 October to protest the government bill. The Industrial Union has said that it is also considering further strike action in the coming weeks.

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