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Finnish government restricts right to strike

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29 May, 2024In violation of international labour standards, the Finnish parliament has approved new laws that effectively limits the right to strike in the country. Political strikes are now severely restricted, as is the right to sympathy strikes, a measure often used in the Nordic countries, like in the Tesla strike in Sweden.

Despite several protest strikes earlier this year, the Finnish coalition government in power since last year, has persevered with an agenda which includes limiting the role of union representatives in the workplace and cuts to social security.

Under the new laws, trade unions will now have to pay considerable fines if they organize a strike which the court later deems to be illegal. Individual workers will be subjected to fines of more than US$200 if they continue a strike after the court has ruled it to be illegal. The fine is to be paid directly to the employer.

The newly enacted laws are in violation of international labour standards, including ILO Conventions 87 and 98, ratified by Finland. The government has dismissed recommendations from the ILO to the Minister of Labour, calling on the government to renegotiate the statutory reforms in consultation with the social partners, which is something the Finnish government has not done.

Says IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie:

“These laws clearly infringe on fundamental labour rights and are not only in violation of core labour standards, but also sharply contradict the Nordic model that fosters social and economic fair policies and practices. We support our unions demanding that these laws are rescinded as they curtail the voices of workers, setting strict limits on political strikes, work stoppages, and industrial strikes, as well imposing fines on workers participating in an “unlawful” strike even when the union has called for it.”

Judith Kirton-Darling, general secretary of industriAll Europe says:

“The vicious attacks on workers’ rights in Finland have sparked outcry among trade unions. And rightly so. This limits the right to strike, promotes decentralised bargaining, gives access for non-unionized workers to negotiate collective agreements and weakens protection against dismissals. This is a blatant breach of workers’ fundamental rights and collective bargaining!  IndustriAll Europe stands firmly behind Finnish workers and their unions in this struggle! An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us!”

The right to strike is under attack in many countries around the world. For the last ten years it has also been under attack from the employers at the International Labour Organization (ILO), which sets global standards on labour rights. Late last year the question was referred by the ILO Governing Body to the International Court of Justice.

The International Labour Conference, the annual meeting of ILO member states, starts early June. Together, let’s remind delegates of their duty to support the right to strike and democracy at work.

Sign and share the ITUC petition, which will be delivered to delegates in Geneva in June.