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Thursday's papers: Strike wave, SDP woes continue and Black Friday warning

The press on Thursday suggests that retailers' discounts might not be all they seem.

Turkulainen postinjakaja Johanna Majalahti otti osaa Posti ja logistiikka-alan unioni PAU:n mielenosoitukseen eduskuntatalon edustalla torstaina 21. marraskuuta 2019 Helsingissä.
Finnish unions and employers are at loggerheads. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

Although the postal strikes and associated sympathy actions were called off on Wednesday, Finland could still see a wave of industrial action this autumn, as strikes and lockouts threaten in different industries across the economy.

Ilta-Sanomat suggests that the current round of negotiations could see strikes affecting some 100,000 workers, with the forest products industry's lockout just the start.

This is a symptom of particularly difficult negotiations across the labour market. Since the Confederation of Finnish Industries announced in 2017 that it would no longer co-ordinate talks across the economy on behalf of employers, unions in each sector have been left to fight their own battles.

This time around employers and unions have a number of demands in most talks. Unions want to eliminate the 'kiky' competitiveness pact rules, which increased working hours by some 24 hours a year.

Employers want to keep hold of that change, and according to the Pro trade union some are also proposing they stop deducting union fees directly from workers' salaries and further restrictions on strike actions.

SDP in trouble

All this is problematic for Prime Minister Antti Rinne and his Social Democratic Party. Rinne used to lead the Pro trade union, and has come under pressure from unions to intervene and from employers to stay neutral in his role as PM.

Helsingin Sanomat publishes an analysis piece that outlines the lead-up to the current strife, including the Juha Sipilä government’s controversial competitiveness pact and Rinne's harsh criticism of it.

The piece then suggests that employers' organisations are not being terribly constructive in working groups set up by the government to explore ways to increase employment, and that many informed observers believe employers' organisations are waiting for the Rinne government to fall — and might even be willing to try and speed up that process.

Another headache for the SDP is the performance of their Minister for State Ownership Steering, Sirpa Paatero.

She has given a confused account of what she knew about Posti's plan to slash pay for 700 workers, and when she knew it.

The state of ownership

HS has seen the documents that referred to the plan and agrees that yes, they are unclear. But a comment piece asks if the minister doesn't understand them, what is the future for the system of government oversight of the state’s many and varied holdings in Finnish companies?

The question remains, though, of how a government led by a labour market expert (Rinne), which has said it prevented all 10,000 postal workers' pay being reduced, could fail to understand what it was reading.

Two further stories added to the difficult reading for social democrats: tabloid stories about the SDP links of theatre impresario Veijo Baltzar’s assistant, who is also his co-accused in a human trafficking case.

And finally, a poll from Helsingin Sanomat that suggests the party's support stands at 15.2 percent — some seven percentage points behind the right-wing populist Finns Party who leads the polls.

Black Friday business

Iltalehti has a warning about 'Black Friday', the US phenomenon around Thanksgiving in which people spend the day after one of their few public holidays shopping for discounted goods.

It has arrived in Europe, and Iltalehti reports that all is not as it might seem.

The paper spoke to a price comparison website which suggested that companies might (shock, horror) increase their prices in the run-up to Black Friday in order to ensure they have a large discount percentage on the day itself.

Retailers might also compare the discounted price to the recommended retail price, which in practice almost nobody ever pays.

Another trick is to allow only a small percentage of stock to go at the discounted rate, which gives a big marketing hit for a small cost.

So whatever the deal is, be sure to do your research and read the small print before you buy.

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