Crossing the Finnish line
November 22, 2019 1:03 AM   Subscribe

Over 60,000 people in Finland are about to go on strike to prevent 700 postal workers from a wage cut, in the biggest labor action seen in years. Unless there is a dramatic resolution over the weekend, on Monday most of Finland’s employees in unions related to the public transit, air travel and ocean travel and shipping industries will go on strike, potentially paralyzing the country and impacting the economy.

The sympathy strikes are in support of the ongoing postal service (Posti) employee strike. Posti, a corporation owned by the government, transferred 700 employees who handle packages to a subsidiary. This moved them to a different union with a different bargaining agreement, potentially slashing their wages by 30-50%. Posti says they will maintain current wages for 27 months, but employees are concerned about what will happen in month 28. Previously Posti had planned to transfer 9,000 employees to a different union, but they were prevented from doing so by the government. (Link in Finnish.) The government representative who oversees Posti says they did not ask her permission to transfer the 700 employees.

Posti claims that other package delivery services are paying similar rates, but it later came out that management was comparing package worker’s wages to those at newspaper delivery services. (Link in Finnish) Posti currently has a 50% share of the package delivery market, is paying package delivery workers less than competitors, and is making a substantial profit. Their competitors say that if Posti takes this action they will be forced to slash wages for workers in order to retain their market share.

Unions consider Posti’s move to be an example of “agreement shopping,” in which a company attempts to cut wages for staff by transferring those workers to a different division that works under a different union. It’s an example of what they consider a worrying trend that is detrimental to workers. They say the strikes will continue until the workers are returned to their original bargaining unit.

In what has been deemed an “exceptional measure,” two former union leaders and two labor market experts have been deputized by the government (link in Finnish) to form a task force that will work through the weekend to find a solution. If the strikes do go ahead on Monday, Facebook comments seem to indicate that public support is overwhelmingly with the union.
posted by rednikki (18 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Times like these make me examine whether I'm really pro labor or only when it's convenient.

As much as this will negatively affect upcoming travel, I support the strikers.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 2:24 AM on November 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

It wouldn't be a very effective strike if it wasn't inconvenient.
posted by atrazine at 3:46 AM on November 22, 2019 [23 favorites]

Reminds me of the days before corporate media managed to successfully vilify unions in the eyes of many of those who would have most benefited from them.
posted by fairmettle at 3:57 AM on November 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

I would be willing to be inconvenienced on the regular for this sort of labor solidarity. Imagine if we had this in the U.S. If when a company does this sort of fuckery almost 100 times as many people went on strike in solidarity.
posted by jzb at 3:58 AM on November 22, 2019 [16 favorites]

Solidarity is a powerful thing.

Gov’t knows if they do A, B will happen in response.

If B is worse than the status quo, don’t do A.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 5:24 AM on November 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

There's no point in going on strike if it doesn't hurt the people who are making the decisions you're striking about. The first time I was part of industrial action, it was because of some heinous behaviour by a publishing company in the 1980s. The NUJ, the journalists' union in the UK, called the strike and most of the editorial in the company came out. But experienced hacks warned that unless the printers also came out, the strike would fail - management would fill the pages with any old crap, the readers wouldn't notice for ages, the advertisers would still pay for adverts, and the company would quite enjoy not having to pay people.

These were the days of annual subscriptions to monthly magazines, and even newsstand sales wouldn't be affected for a couple of months - one issue of your favourite mag's a dud, you're still going to buy the next. And circulation figures , on which ad spend is based, are published annually.

That's a long time to stand on the picket lines.

If you stop the presses, no magazine appears and the advertisers want their money back immediately. Management folds. Don't do that, and you'll be starved out.

And so it turned out, and it was the last throw of the dice the NUJ made in the sector. Freelance rates haven't gone up since.

If you're working for a state-controlled company, the only way to bring pressure on the state is on as wide a front as possible.
posted by Devonian at 6:07 AM on November 22, 2019 [15 favorites]

A bit of context here: PAU, which is the union that represents Posti's workers (except, now, for the 700 at issue) is technically a transport union. That's why they are getting so much support from other transport unions. The 700 employees have been moved to a media union, which does not have the power that the transport union does.
posted by rednikki at 6:59 AM on November 22, 2019 [6 favorites]

There's no point in going on strike if it doesn't hurt the people who are making the decisions you're striking about.

This would be why the US Gov't shutdown stopped when the Flight Attendants' Union started making noise.
posted by pseudophile at 9:20 AM on November 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

When the union's inspiration through the workers' blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong

I wish them luck and hope they can bring the entire country to a halt. No to this bullshit.
posted by sotonohito at 10:00 AM on November 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

Put your hands in your motherfucking pockets. And don’t scab or cross the line.
posted by corb at 7:08 PM on November 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

I made it into school in time this morning, by a hair's breadth. Teacher had sent out an email saying he'd adjust points for those truly stuck - I was prepared to walk half hour to the nearest train station but miraculously saw a bus going my way.

The two or three bus lines that happened to be running on my route were mostly empty but the campus was populated enough.

Interestingly, although inconvenienced, people were in sympathy with the unions.
posted by Mrs Potato at 11:22 AM on November 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

Strikes end as postal workers reach deal with Posti
Unions and employer reached agreement on Tuesday morning.
posted by Mrs Potato at 1:16 AM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

The solution envisages those 700 workers returning to the previous collective agreement, which is negotiated by trade union PAU and employers organisation Palta.

Sounds like a win?
posted by Not A Thing at 5:24 AM on November 27, 2019

I hope so, my bills will be late otherwise this month. And I have more than two months worth of receipts to send to my accountant. yada yada life things
posted by Mrs Potato at 9:33 AM on November 27, 2019

Our systems work so well for our context and conditions that strikes are noticeable.
posted by Mrs Potato at 9:34 AM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Finland’s Minister for State Ownership Steering, Sirpa Paatero, has resigned after it emerged that she had failed to act to prevent a state-owned company from cutting the pay of around 700 workers.

Prime Minister Antti Rinne announced her resignation at a press conference on Friday after a war of words between senior politicians and the management of Posti, the state-owned postal company.

Paatero is now on sick leave until 13 December. The government was yet to announce her successor in the challenging state ownership portfolio.

posted by Mrs Potato at 5:26 AM on November 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

Guys guys, the Prime Minister has resigned.

We have no government right now.

The veteran journalist noted that the APN audience are not the only ones still scratching their head over the current political drama -- Finns are also perplexed by the ongoing theatre.

"Even Finnish people don't know what's going on. It's very hard to try to answer these questions as we don't really know yet what happened with the Posti thing," she said

posted by Mrs Potato at 12:27 AM on December 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Let's see what these 100,000 people planning to strike from Monday will be able to do
posted by Mrs Potato at 12:40 AM on December 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

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