Workers Strike Against Cuts Brings Finland to a Halt

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Helsinki’s working class turns out in staunch opposition to proposed cuts to workers rights, as 30,000 gathered at the Central Railway Station to demonstrate despite inclement weather.

The strike began early on Friday morning and was planned to last one working day. All railroad and bus lines, as well as servicing of aircrafts at the airports, have been brought to a halt for 12 hours.

Finland’s government personnel, transport workers, industrial workers at metal and wood-processing industries, even post offices and a part of police officers have walked out for one day.

“The strike is going on not only at Helsinki’s landside area. All of the country is on strike. This must become a strong message to the government,” Paavo Arhinmaki, a Finnish MP from the Left Alliance, told TASS.

Finnish media has stressed that the grandeur of the event is unprecedented in nearly 100 years. The last time anything similar was witnessed in the capital was in 1917, when Finland gained independence from Russia.

The demonstration was arranged in defence of the labour market organisations’ right to determine collective agreements and in opposition to the government’s unilateral decisions to weaken employees’ terms of employment.

Last Tuesday the government announced changes including forced restrictions to annual holiday entitlement, an unpaid sick leave waiting day, turning weekday holidays into days without a pay and cuts to overtime and Sunday work compensation. The chairmen of the trade union confederations stress that employees cannot accept the government’s coercive measures. The government is not respecting employees’ and employers’ right to determine labour costs and other terms of employment. It is also threatening to breach the internationally recognised principle that the law primarily protects the weaker party.

Here are five of the most painful cuts

1. The benefit level for sick days will be reduced so that the first day will in future be unpaid and 80 per cent of pay will be paid for days 2–9.

2. Overtime pay will be halved and Sunday pay will be reduced to 75 per cent.

3. Epiphany and Ascension Day will be changed into unpaid public holidays without reducing annual working time.

4. Long holidays, particularly in the public sector, will be shortened from 38 to 30 working days.

5. The private employer’s social security contribution will be reduced by 1.72 percentage points from the beginning of 2017.

About one thousand people staged an anti-austerity demonstration in Helsinki, Finland in April of 2014. The event was launched by several groups on social media under the slogan “Nyt Saa Riittää!” (“Enough is Enough!”)

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