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Unions plan big anti-government rally in Helsinki in February

The SAK, representing a million workers, is staging a major protest against stricter conditions on employment benefits.

SAK:n puheenjohtaja Jarkko Eloranta SAK:n hallituksen kokouksessa, jossa käsiteltiin työttömyysturvan aktiivimallia.
Jarkko Eloranta Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Finland’s largest labour organisation is planning a national demonstration to protest government moves to limit access to unemployment benefits. The protest march is to take place on February 2 at a so-far-undisclosed location in Helsinki.

The blue-collar Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) is calling on the government to withdraw the scheme. Under the so-called "active model", jobseekers’ benefit payments could be reduced unless they can prove that they are either doing temporary work, pursuing entrepreneurship or taking part in training.

More than 125,000 people have already signed a citizens’ initiative opposing the programme, meaning that Parliament will have to consider it. The three-party centre-right government has a narrow majority in the 200-seat legislature.

White-collar unions to weigh participation

“There will certainly be people from the provinces who want to join in. We’ll arrange transport, but it remains to be seen exactly how this will be done,” SAK President Jarkko Eloranta said on Monday. He said that no space had yet been reserved for the event, but that the process was underway. Eloranta said he expects thousands of people to take part.

The SAK has called a meeting next week of the leaders of all of its 18 affiliated trade unions to discuss details of the February protest.

The white-collar Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK) also rejects the government’s "active model", but says on Monday that each of its 17 member unions can decide for itself on any organised action to oppose the system.

The SAK represents about a million workers, while the STTK represents just over half a million. Altogether there are nearly 2.5 million working people in Finland, or close to half of the total population.

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