Finland: EPSU backs health unions’ right to strike

Finland solidarity

(12 September) EPSU has sent a message of solidarity to nurses' unions in Finland in the face of the government’s threat to ban strikes in health and social care. The federation has also written to the Finnish prime minister urging her to withdraw this unacceptable threat to the right to strike.

Tehy and SuPer, have been involved in a long-running dispute with municipal employers over pay and conditions. The two unions have a long-term plan to increase pay for nursing staff in response to the critical shortage of workers across the sector. However, employers have rejected their claim and following a summer of industrial action in the form of bans on overtime and shift changes, Tehy and SuPer recently announced a series of strikes targeting a range of health facilities across the country.

As always, both unions have taken all the necessary steps to ensure patient safety and the maintenance of essential and emergency services.

Rather than intervene to help provide a long-term solution to the staffing crisis, the government has responded by putting forward legislation that would give employers in health and social care the right to unilaterally determine whether strike action can go head. The two unions point out legislation already exists to allow the government to intercede where industrial action poses a threat to citizens’ safety and that it is unacceptable that it now wants to go further to impose restrictions specifically on health and social care.

Tehy and SuPer are also angry that the government is weighing in on the side of the employers and taking the view that trade union action poses a threat to patient safety. They unions point out that, in contrast, the government is doing nothing to push the employers to take the necessary measures to increase staffing and guarantee patient safety.

EPSU has written to the Finnish government, calling on it to withdraw the proposed strike ban and to work with the trade unions and employers to resolve the dispute and develop a sustainable, long-term strategy to improve pay and tackle the staffing crisis.

EPSU General Secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan said: “It is very disappointing that we see the approach taken by the government of Finland, a country which otherwise has a very positive record on industrial relations and collective bargaining. It marks a surprising contrast with countries like the UK and Latvia where EPSU affiliates in health and social care are currently are planning strike action and are free to do so under the rules of those countries.”

He added: “We will continue to support Tehy and SuPer both in their current industrial action and in their resistance to the introduction to the new law. It will be a shame that this action will tarnish Finland’s reputation shortly before next week’s conference on trade union rights in the public services.”

Finland

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