Vanhanen: Restrictions should be considered on right to strike
Aftermath of harbour strike examined
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) feels that Finland should consider the possibility of limiting the right to strike by certain key sectors that can bring large sections of the national economy to a grinding halt.
According to the Prime Minister, possible restrictions on the right to strike could be discussed on a tripartite basis, in talks including representatives of the labour union movement, employers, and the government. The matter could be discussed in connection with preparations for the ongoing economic package.
Vanhanen put forward the possibility on Friday when he spoke to reporters at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport on his return from a trip to South Africa, after a settlement had been reached in a strike by stevedores, which had closed down most of Finland’s cargo harbours for more than two weeks.
Vanhanen says that the harbour strike hurt Finland’s reputation in delivering goods. He said that the end of the labour dispute was very important, because the immediate losses were great.
“Perhaps even a greater loss was that in modern trade, it is important to be able to rely on timetables. Finland has now lost this reliability, and the coming years will show how high a price will be paid”, Vahnanen said.
The strike is not expected to have an impact on next week’s budget framework talks, even though Vanhanen calculates that the action led to a loss of 2-3 tenths of a per cent of economic growth.
The Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) has said that society is practically defenceless in the face of action such as the harbour strike called by the Finnish Transport Workers' Union (AKT), and that consequently there is a need for a serious debate on the right way of doing things.
EK director Eeva-Liisa Inkeroinen said: “There was nothing in the content of the mediation proposal that was now approved that would justify or with which it would be possible to explain the stoppage of all of the country’s exports”.
She called for tripartite talks aimed at drafting legislation to avert such disturbances on the labour market.
On the labour side, the Industrial Unions (TP) consultative committee blames EK for making the conflict worse.
TP, which represents 13 different unions, says that EK could have prevented the labour dispute, noting that wage earners have offered EK a possibility for a wider-ranging labour market solution at three different stages.
According to Antti Rinne, chairman of the Union of Salaried Employees (TU), EK is getting what it asked for. He predicts that the stevedores’ industrial action is unlikely to be the last in this round of labour contracts.
The view on the union side is that: “...the direction in EK is set by heavy industry, under whose feet the smaller players in the organisation get trampled”.
TP’s member unions represent a total of nearly 700,000 individual members.
Meanwhile, work at Finnish harbours started getting back to normal after the end of the strike was announced on Friday afternoon.
Stevedores have been working overtime during the weekend to dismantle the backlog of goods at Finland’s various ports.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Central organisations called in to break harbour strike deadlock (17.3.2010)
Harbour strike forces UPM to shut down three paper mills (9.3.2010)
Stevedores´ strike at Finnish seaports begins (4.3.2010)
Agreement reached in stevedores´ strike (19.3.2010)
Facebook used to recruit strikebreakers in harbour strike (18.3.2010)