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Supermarket strike averted as retail sector reaches wage settlement

Governing bodies of employer and employee organisations confirmed the settlement on Friday afternoon.

Työntekijä täyttää vihanneshyllyä supermarketissa.
The threatened strike would have involved nearly 50,000 workers. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

Representatives of employer associations and worker trade unions said Friday that they had reached a settlement in an industrial dispute over a new collective bargaining agreement, averting a strike that would have shut doors at some supermarkets.

"We have reached a negotiated settlement today on a collective agreement for the retail sector. The details will be revealed if the boards [on both sides] accept the outcome. Association boards will meet this afternoon," Services workers' union PAM chair Annika Rönni-Sällinen tweeted on Friday.

The threatened strike would have involved nearly 50,000 workers and would have effectively shut down duopoly retailer S Group’s Prisma hypermarkets as well as its logistics centres in Sipoo and Kerava in southern Finland.

Salary increases and no more 'kiky'

On Friday afternoon, both sides announced that their governing bodies had accepted the deal effectively ending strike action that was due to begin next week, disrupting logistical operations at supermarkets and halting maintenance and other work in the real estate sector.

The two-year deal would increase workers' pay by two percent from April this year, and an additional 1.3 percent from April 2021. The hotly contested 'kiky', or 24 hours of unpaid annual work will be replaced by modifying the system of annual leave.

At the same time employers were able to negotiate more flexibility in shift planning, something seen as important in the sector.

Extra unpaid hours a stumbling block

Before the settlement, workers in the real estate service sector had planned to down tools in regions such as Lapland, Kainuu in eastern Finland, central Finland and Ostrobothnia in the west.

Meanwhile an overtime ban had already been in effect since 4 February at logistics firms Inex Partners, affecting distribution centres run by the other major food retail chain, Kesko, as well as the German market challenger Lidl.

The union had 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.

Edit: Updated at 5.50pm to include confirmation of the settlement as well as some details of the deal.

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