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Wednesday's papers: Redundancy fears, postal service salaries, power stones, and tanks vs reindeer

Finland's press looks at growing job cuts, developments in the Posti affair, Namibian artefacts and a military mishap.

Porot ylittävät tien
Reindeer crossing a motorway near Kemijärvi in 2006. Image: Sauli Antikainen / Yle

Turku-based daily Turun Sanomat writes about a worrying wave of layoffs that appears to be gaining speed in Finland. News on Tuesday of planned job cuts at forestry companies UPM and Stora Enso, as well as Aktia Bank and the construction company Lehto Group pushes the list of companies that have let go of employees this year to past 30, the paper writes.

The country's almost million-member-strong labour confederacy, SAK, tells TS that it is watching the development carefully, and it appears to be affecting every sector. Ismo Kokko, the union's senior advisor for collective bargaining, tells the paper that the "increase is not yet alarming".

TS notes that economic downswings usually start with poorer performance in exporting companies, who must adapt to changing competition parameters quickly. They point to signs of this in recent downsizing at Finnish forestry companies, as well as such global manufacturers as Sandvik, Nokian Tyres, ABB, SSAB and the once-booming Valmet Automotive car factory in Uusikaupunki.

The paper warns that trade wars currently threaten the world economy, while Brexit is creating uncertainty in the EU.

"When the situation is unclear, companies don't dare to invest and many projects are put on ice. This is bad for Finland, as a large share of its revenue comes from exports," TS concludes.

Posti salary cut could extend to 8,000

Daily Helsingin Sanomat reports the latest developments in a plan to lower postal salaries that has generated much debate in the last few weeks. HS has now learned via interviews that the national postal carrier Posti plans to lower the wages of up to 8,000 employees – one third of the 22,000-worker total and ten times more than the 700 or so the state-owned group had originally announced.

Prime Minister Antti Rinne, whose government has promised to review salary policy at the company, told HS that his coalition was aware of Posti's plans and said it is considering offering a lump sum payment to the employees affected, although he wouldn't speculate as to the amount.

The public debate over the salary cuts intensified when it was revealed that Posti CEO Heikki Malinen's near-million-euro annual salary has increased by 65 percent in the last four years, while the firm has steadily let go of hundreds of workers.

Returning lost property

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat carries a story on a special stone from Namibia. It seems that back in the nineteenth century, Finnish missionary Martti Rautanen brought a piece of a sacred artefact to Finland, and now the Vice President of Namibia, Nangolo Mbumba, wants it back.

Mbumba met with PM Rinne this week, and he has requested that the culturally significant Ondonga Power Stone be returned to Namibia from its current place in the ethnographic collection of the Finnish National Museum, so that it can be put on display in a local museum.

Originating in Ovamboland, an ancient northern kingdom of Namibia, the stone is a piece of a meteorite that fell to Earth in 1883 or 1886. The Finnish museum describes Artefact 5620 as "believed to symbolize good government, stability and connection with the forefathers' spirits". Among other things, the stone was revered in northern Namibia for its rain-making properties.

Finnish National Museum curator Heli Lahdentausta says both countries' museum authorities are open to returning the stone to Namibia. The Finnish Government already repatriated two other important artefacts to Namibia since it gained independence in 1990: the Power Stone of the Kingdom of Oukwanyama in 1990, and a stone that was part of the regal symbols of Ombalantu in 2014.

Next July, Finland and Namibia will celebrate 150 years of close relations, and Lahdentausta says the stone will likely be repatriated sometime during the festivities.

Tank swerved to avoid reindeer

And lastly, Oulu-based newspaper Kaleva reports on a collision in Finnish Lapland involving two military tanks and a reindeer.

Two Patria Pasi armoured personnel carriers collided in the city of Kemijärvi on Tuesday evening when one of the tanks swerved to avoid hitting a reindeer. The paper writes that 27 conscripts from the Kainuu Brigade were affected by the crash, along with one instructor.

Five conscripts were immediately brought to Lapland Central Hospital in an ambulance and seven more were later transported to the hospital for monitoring. These 12 young men were held in the Rovaniemi hospital overnight, while the other 15 were monitored in a field hospital. An army spokesman told the paper that "no serious injuries resulted".

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