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Wednesday's papers: Looming strike, vanishing schools, natural diversity boost

Papers mull the coming Posti strike, elementary schools shutting down and 100 million euros in environmental aid.

Karhu ja korppi metsässä.
The government plans to spend 100 million euros on Finland's natural diversity. Image: Ville Heikkinen

The PAU logistics union announced Tuesday that a two-week postal strike would begin on 11 November unless they can agree a new sectoral deal on pay and conditions with national mail carrier Posti. Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat featured a piece in its Taloussanomat supplement on Wednesday on what to expect if the strike does go ahead.

Posti itself has made no announcements as to the nature of the problems that a strike would cause, saying that PAU has yet to file an official strike notice. 'Head of Exception Management' at Posti, Jarmo Ainasoja said that international packages would not be lost or returned, and that their customers' needs would be taken care of – he did not specify how in the IS story.

"We have personnel focusing on critical services even when there's industrial action," Ainasoja said. "But there will definitely be delays."

Posti's official stance is that the strike represents a force majeure situation, which would mean that the postal service would not be liable for any lost or broken packages.

Senior adviser Juha Jokinen from the Finnish Consumer and Competition Authority (KKV) holds an opposing view in IS, saying that Posti could in fact affect the circumstances surrounding the strike by bowing to PAU's demands.

"Even if the company says their hands are tied by a strike, these things are always speculative," Jokinen said.

School closures risk child health

The health of Finland's younger generations could be seriously at risk due to the high rate of school closures in remote regions as well as metropolitan regions. Daily Helsingin Sanomat wrote on a trend that is worrying experts and teachers.

Statistics Finland reports that municipalities have shuttered more than 2,500 elementary schools since 1990. The HS graph demonstrates that as half of Finland's schools have vanished, class sizes have exploded.

Inspector general Kari Lehtola from the Regional State Administrative Agency of Eastern Finland said in no uncertain terms that the "biggest upheaval in the history of Finnish education" is well underway.

"The recession in the 1990s and started a school closure boom that is still ongoing. Most have been closed due to savings targets and dwindling numbers of students. Municipalities have been chipping away this education system, once called the best in the world, by closing a hundred schools a year without any evidence of it being beneficial."

Statistics Finland reports that in 1995-2017 the real costs of Finland's school system have increased by nine percent, and costs per student have risen by 18 percent, HS wrote.

Environment minister promises millions

The planet's natural diversity is rapidly dwindling, and something must be done, said Environment Minister Krista Mikkonen in Turun Sanomat. She also promised government money would to be used as early as next year to curb the destruction of natural species.

"We want to focus on improving the state of various habitats," Mikkonen said in TS. "Preservation alone is not enough; we need to reconstruct, rehabilitate and care for our environment. This is a growing trend worldwide."

Mikkonen also said that efforts to preserve numerous wetlands and bird nesting areas have stalled because of the previous government's round of budget cuts.

The government's large-scale natural diversity programme, called Helmi, is investing significant sums to protect the natural world. Helmi will receive 42 million euros in funding, but that is not the whole story. Together with another programme to revitalise Southern Finland's forests, the overall government budget for increasing natural diversity runs up to some 100 million euros.

The plans are ambitious, TS wrote: the government aims to rehabilitate 80 marshlands with diverse bird populations, 15,000 hectares of newly protected meadows and fields and 20,000 hectares of wetlands.

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