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Wednesday's papers: Strikes and more strikes, doctors needed, slippery roads

A three-day strike by security guards that started overnight was high on the news agenda Wednesday morning, with the main service sector union confederation pledging even more strikes and walkouts to come.

auton takarengas ka lunta
The season's first sleet and snow mean motorists will soon need winter tyres. Image: AOP

According to Tampere's Aamulehti, the three-day security guard strike is seen even by the service sector union PAM as a tough move, but one needed to break a deadlock in pay talks.

It quotes the union's chief contract negotiator Jyrki Sinkkonen as saying that the strike was the last means employees had to press their demands.

While not all security guards have walked off the job, the strike is expected to have a significant impact. Many shops and shopping malls are now without security staff, as are nuclear power plants, hospitals, schools, healthcare centres and industrial facilities. The union has said it is up to each individual employer whether or not to stay open.

Aamulehti is also among the newspapers reporting that following a Tuesday evening meeting with Prime Minister Juha Sipilä the service sector union has called for strikes and walkouts by a further 50,000 plus of its members.

The union has yet to announce when the action will take place, or what sectors it will affect.

PAM chair Ann Selin did say, though, that the planned labour action will range from "strikes to light protests", with the intent of "showing consumers that this [situation] will not be tolerated."

In 2016, PAM agreed to keep a cap on contract demands as part of a government pact aimed at improving national competitiveness. The union says it was promised, among other things, that there would be no more cuts in unemployment benefits and that labour market policy would be formulated jointly by the government, employers’ representatives and unions. Those pledges have not been kept, argues PAM.

Aamulehti adds that Selin is stressing that a new round of strikes is deals with much more than the government's controversial dismissal bill.

"This is about the government's entire labour market policy and oppression of the weakest. This is really the last straw."

1000 doctors needed

Turun Sanomat today reports that the Finnish Medical Association says a reform to the nation's public social and healthcare system will require finding up to 1000 doctors to fill new jobs.

The syndicated Lännen Media report carried by the paper quotes the head of the Association, Kati Myllymäki, as saying that once the reform is rolled out, the current number of general practitioners in the public healthcare system will not even in theory be enough to ensure easy access to a doctor at public care centres.

In response, Kirsi Varhila, the Director General of the Department for Social and Health Services at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, said that plans call for increasing the numbers of other types of healthcare professionals, such as specialized healthcare nurses. She pointed out that already today, half of all appointments at healthcare centres are with nursing personnel.

The Finnish Medical Association argues that a scarcity of doctors at public healthcare centres in Finland has been a problem since the 1990s.

Myllymäki compares the situation here to that in Denmark, where a public sector general practitioner is responsible for around 1,100 patients.

"In Finland's larger cities, such as Turku, Tampere and Helsinki where all the jobs are filled, there can be one doctor per 3,000 inhabitants," she told Lännen Media.

Slippery roads and more to come

Wednesday morning got off to a chilly and slippery start in many parts of the country.

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat was among the papers warning drivers that sleet and slush may make roads hazardous today and for the next few days to come.

That sleet and slush, combined with sub-zero overnight low temperatures prompted hazardous driving condition warnings in the regions of Satakunta, and South, Central and North Ostrobothnia.

Southern and western regions have rain in the forecast, with foggy conditions across Finnish Lapland.

Earlier forecasts were for snowfall in southern parts of the country no sooner than this coming Saturday. The Pirkanmaa region saw its first snowfall of the season Tuesday evening.

The freesheet Metro reports that the change in the weather has caused a rush by motorists to switch to winter tyres.

The paper interviewed Sami Horto, the CEO of the tyre service company Rengasmaailma in Helsinki, who said that following Tuesday evening weather forecasts his company has suddenly been flooded by customers booking times to have their tyres changed.

"People live in the moment, no matter how much you ask them to plan ahead. It's always the same story," noted Horto.

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