The strikes of more than 80,000 municipal employees began on Tuesday in Finland’s largest cities. The strikes were due to growing frustration with the stagnation of workers ’wages and labor shortages.
The municipal strikes began on Tuesday morning when municipal employers and employees could not reach an agreement on a new collective agreement covering 425,000 municipal workers.
The federations of municipalities have demanded a 2 per cent increase in wages for next year, arguing that the increase would be in line with the increases agreed in other Finnish collective agreements.
Numerous trade unions are involved in the strike, including the Juko, the Trade Union and Supervisors Association (Akava), the Public Sector Association (JAU) and the Public and Welfare Trade Union (JHL).
If no agreement is reached, the strike will last until May 9th. Several municipal services in the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Kaunianen, Vantaa, Jyväskylä, Turku, Rovaniemi, Kuopio, Oulu and Tampere have suffered from the strikes.
The additional strike for private school employees will also affect 17 educational institutions in Helsinki and Tampere.
Because many kindergartens and schools have closed, families have had to make last-minute arrangements.
Older students report that this strike, like previous ones, has had a major impact on their learning environment and structure. School closures have led to a backlog of tasks and interrupted the curriculum of many students.
There is also congestion in hospitals and waiting times are expected in Helsinki and Jyväskylä, as appointment services are hampered by staff shortages.
Poor working conditions
The municipal sector has been suffering from labor shortages for several years.
The lack of early childhood education workers has caused particular problems. In Helsinki, for example, the issue has become a major crisis.
Chronic labor shortages have also led to a significant deterioration in working conditions in many municipal jobs. The unions have said the proposed wage increases are intended to ease the situation. Trade unions argue that current wages are too low and do not adequately compensate for the demands of work and increased responsibility.
Wage increases, mainly for low-income earners
The primary goal of the trade unions is to obtain salary increases, especially for low-paid municipal employees.
According to the Earnings Income Index, the average wage in the municipal sector is four per cent lower than in the private sector, but it varies greatly between different occupations in both.
Olli Luukkainen, cBoth Jukko’s and OAJ’s hair criticize the fact that the municipal sector has had to settle for small, if any, wage increases in recent rounds of negotiations.
The unions also want a wage program for the municipal sector that, in addition to annual cost-of-living increases, reserves wage-increase provisions for wage costs, some say this is a prerequisite for reconciliation.
Trade unions have complained that workers in the private sector are often paid higher wages than stipulated in collective agreements, but this is less common in the municipal sector. This has led to a situation where wages in the municipal sector are not developing at the same pace as wages in the private sector. At the same time, this makes jobs in the municipal sector less attractive
According to the unions, a wage program could attract people to occupations in the municipal sector and ensure that wages better meet the requirements of these jobs.
What do you think of the strike? Join the discussion via the comments below. You need a Yle ID, so sign up here. Comments are open for trial until May 13, with moderation every weekday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Source: The Nordic Page