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Service union strike threatens to shutter supermarkets

A strike by service sector union PAM would include nearly 50,000 workers.

Myyjä hyllyttämässä jugurttia Prismassa
Image: Kalle Purhonen / Yle

The service sector union PAM is threatening a strike during the week of the winter ski holiday that would affect retail and property services. The industrial action would involve nearly 50,000 workers and could effectively shut down supermarket chains such as the S Group’s Prisma hypermarkets for two days.

According to Service Union United PAM, the strike would begin with the logistics and transportation firm Inex Partners on 18 February and would continue there until 21 February. The work stoppage would affect S Group logistics hubs in Sipoo and Kerava in southern Finland. As a result Prisma stores will not be open for business for two days from 20 – 21 February.

Workers in the real estate service sector will also down tools during the same week in regions such as Lapland, Kainuu in eastern Finland, central Finland and Ostrobothnia in the west.

"We have also decided on strikes following week eight. Pam will announce industrial action in subsequent weeks later," union head Annika Rönni-Sällinen said in a statement.

Overtime ban also in effect

In addition to the strike, logistics workers will observe a ban on overtime work at Inex Partners starting on 4 February. The measure will affect distribution centres run by the other major food retail chain, Kesko, as well as the German market challenger Lidl.

The union has been in discussions on a new collective bargaining agreement with retail sector employer lobby, the Finnish Commerce Federation and the Real Estate Employers association. However PAM’s governing body suspended the negotiations at the end of January, when the previous collective agreement expired.

PAM said it decided to abandon the talks because they had not progressed. According to Rönni-Sällinen, employer representatives were reluctant to negotiate sticking points such as the contentious “kiky” hours – 24 hours of additional annual unpaid work tacked on to collective agreements by Juha Sipilä’s competitiveness pact in 2016.

The tri-partite agreement sought to improve national competitiveness by reducing companies' unit cost of labour.

The union has accused the powerful business lobby, the Confederation of Finnish Industries or EK, of coordinating employer positions in the negotiations. It has said that this is an obstacle to genuine sector-by-sector talks.

"By coordinating, employers want to pick and choose and force cleaners and sales personnel to continue contributing free labour," Rönni-Sällinen charged.

You can listen to our All Points North podcast about Finland's collective bargaining system via this embedded player, Yle Areena, Spotify, iTunes or your normal pod player using the RSS feed.

Audio: Yle News

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