Unions in the largest confederation, SAK, have launched further strikes this week. The latest walkouts began on Monday 11 March 2024. The country's ports will be closed for two weeks, bringing imports and exports to a standstill. The Industrial Union will target heavy industry. This is the latest stage in a months-long conflict that began shortly after the new centre-right-far-right government took office in mid-2023.

Finland is far from the only country where fundamental rights are being attacked, but the attacks are particularly noteworthy because they are taking place in a country with a 60% union density and industrial relations that are seen by many as a model for the rest of Europe.

Finland is widely regarded as one of the most prosperous EU member states. However, the current Finnish government has chosen a path that will lead to a deterioration in workers' rights and reduced support for people in precarious situations. The current Labour Minister believes that 'a reduction in labour market disturbances would improve business competitiveness, growth and Finland's attractiveness as an investment destination by removing barriers to employment'. In terms of industrial action, this means limiting support and political strikes and increasing fines for illegal strikes.

Finland's conservative prime minister, Petteri Orpo, has invited the social partners to discuss the government's preferred model of collective bargaining. But the unions are sceptical about the initiative, calling the invitation a trap. They want real negotiations with the government to find an acceptable solution to the situation. Earlier talks between the government and the unions on this dispute broke down in December last year. The opposition parties in the Finnish parliament responded with a vote of no confidence in the Orpo cabinet.

IndustriAll Europe Deputy General Secretary Isabelle Barthès expressed solidarity with the Finnish unions:

"In the light of international regulations such as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Adequate Minimum Wage Directive, the new government in Finland seems to be taking the country backwards.

"We stand firmly behind our Finnish affiliates in their fight to maintain their fundamental right to defend the interests of their members collectively."

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