May 19. 2024. 1:03

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Finnish dock workers paralyse foreign trade


The dock workers’ strike – which has gone on for two weeks now – has now paralysed Finland’s foreign trade, with no imports and exports going through any of the country’s ports.

Around midnight on Sunday evening, National Conciliator Anu Sajavaara did not hide her disappointment as the day-long negotiations between the Transport Workers Union (AKT) and the Finnish Port Operators Association to end the stevedores’ strike failed to yield any promising results.

The strike – which began on 15 February – has, in effect, stopped imports and exports through Finland’s ports. No deadline has been set for the work stoppage, and the stalemate looks to continue even if the disputing parties have promised to resume talks.

The dock workers have rejected two settlement agreements, which the port operators had been ready to accept. The dock workers are being blamed for keeping the whole Finnish economy “hostage”.

Data published by ETLA Economic Research (Etla), an independent, private, non-profit economic research institute, showed that the strike cuts the country’s Gross Domestic Product by around 0.35% a week equivalent to around €950 million.

Solidarity towards demands cannot be guaranteed among other labour unions. For a number of years, a collective deal between the Industrial Union and the Technology Industries Employers has paved the way for other salary agreements. According to their agreement signed in early February, wages will increase by 3.5% on 1 April 2023 and by 2% on 1 February 2024. Also, a one-time payment of €400 was agreed on.

Now the dock workers are contesting that agreement and want more. The Finnish Transport Workers’ Union views the Finnish labour market model as “broken” and sticks to the principle that each union and sector can independently negotiate on wages.

Accordingly, taking an example from the agreements signed in German industries, stevedores are demanding a pay rise of 8.5% for the next two years. The employers have considered the demand unacceptable.

(Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)