Strike Paralyzing Cargo at Finnish Ports Extended for Third Week

Helsinki port
Cargo operations at Finland's ports are stopped as the unions protest labor law changes (Helsinki file photo)

Published Mar 22, 2024 5:34 PM by The Maritime Executive


Finland’s main trade unions announced they are extending their strike that is crippling the country’s cargo operations for a third week after talks with the government were termed “fruitless.” The union which represents the dockworkers started the strike and was joined by others with reports that 7,000 workers are now on strike since March 11. Imports and exports were largely brought to a standstill while the unions protested proposed labor law changes that they call “ideological” and fundamental to the quality of life.

“We are disappointed. We have hoped for equality and a softening of hard actions for the employees,” said Jarkko Eloranta, President of SAK (the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions). “The government did not agree but still intends to implement numerous business life goals that are negative for employees. Many of them have no effect on employment or the balance of the public finances.”

Chief among the complaints from the union are steps by the government that would permit more localized and individual labor contracts. The union’s universal collective agreements have long been a part of the Scandinavian culture and workplace. Other changes the union says would cut social security benefits and prevent sympathy strikes.

The trade association writes in its announcements that it “cannot watch from the sidelines the scrapping of the rules of the game of working life built over decades.” They said that 54 percent of Finns approve of the strike.

They highlight that this is a political strike and not an action against individual workplaces or for new contracts. One of the unions struck last year to win a new collective agreement for the dockworkers. The trade association however met with Minister of Labor Arto Satonen reporting that its calls for compromise were rejected. They said they were willing to suspend the strike if the government showed understanding of the workers’ concerns.

Container operations came to a halt as the strike began on March 11 but it was due to end this weekend. Now the union says it will be extended to at least April 1. They are targeting port operations as well as the railroads that move cargo.

Among the specific companies targeted are all the cargo operations of Viking Line in both Helsinki and Turku. Passenger operations are not impacted by the strike. They are also targeting the storage facilities and tankers of Neste.

The Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions reports that the Finnish Industry Association, the Automotive and Transport Workers' Union AKT, the Service Trade Union PAM, the Construction Union, the Public and Welfare Union JHL, and the Electricity Union are all participating in the strike.