Union Calls 24-Hour Strike Stopping Work at Finland’s Ports
Work at ports across Finland stopped on December 28 after the union representing the stevedores called a 24-hour strike as part of its solidarity movement in a strike targeting one of Finland’s largest forest products companies and the overall forest products industry. The Automobile and Transport Workers’ Association launched the strike at 6:00 a.m. saying all employees covered by its collective bargaining agreement would stop work until Wednesday morning.
The Confederation of Finnish Industries was quick to criticize the union. They said the dispute was with a single company but that the union through its actions was threatening Finland’s foreign trade. They said more than €350 million worth of goods move through Finnish ports each day.
On December 21, the union had launched a specific blockage against all goods from Keitele Group, the largest Finnish forest products company. They targeted the company’s products loading at the port of Valko in Loviisa. The company and its unions have been locked in an ongoing dispute over a future contact for Keitele’s employees. The company does not participate in the broader Forest Industry, but largely follows the broader collective bargaining agreement for the forest products industry. The industry’s labor contract expires at the end of this year.
In announcing its plans to stop work at all ports in Finland, the union cited attempts on December 22 and 23 to break its blockade against the forest products company. On December 23, the Helsinki District Court ordered the union to end the blockade and fined the union €1 million. The union appealed for the judgment to be lifted, but the court dismissed the claim.
Union leaders said they hoped that the union and Keitele, as well as the Confederation of Finnish Industry, would start negotiations and find a company-specific agreement. The Confederation of Finnish Industry and the forest products trade association are both calling for reforms to the rules governing strikes saying it was inappropriate to draw the entire nation into a company-specific action.