Finnish port strike enters third week; more strikes planned

The strikes at ports in Finland entered its third week yesterday, March 1st, with signs that the scope of the strikes could expand even further in the logistics/transport sector.

Dockworkers and port employees began their strike on February 15th, demanding wage increases that kept pace with inflation, plus some changes to work rules.

Finland’s 10 main seaports are all included in the current strike. Among the industries that are feeling the impact is the pulp, paper, and board sectors, which rely on shipping. Reports are estimating that the strike could cost more than $1bn each month.

Finland’s Transport Workers’ Union AKT was reported to have rejected two offers from the Finnish Port Operators’ Association. The Finnish media have suggested that the union has been seeking raises in line with those achieved in Germany during the 2022 strikes. As a a result of that dispute, German port workers gained something like an 8.5% raise over two years.

Anu Sajavaara, National Conciliator who is overseeing the negotiations, told the Helsinki Times on Sunday February 26th that “we spent the whole day looking for a solution, but unfortunately we couldn’t find one. We’ll have to wait and mull over the solution for a while longer, but we’re close. There was some progress.”

The strike has brought to a halt to most of Finland’s import and export business. Some 90% of the country’s trade goes by sea, while traditionally the other main trade route had been by train across the eastern border to Russia. However, for the past 12 months that has largely been suspended since the invasion of Ukraine.

Given that the port talks broke off at the weekend, the union was now saying that it would be extending the strike to other key sectors, including bus drivers and parts of the trucking sector.

The Food Workers’ Union announced that it would hold a two-day strike on March 6th and 7th, banning the loading and unloading in support of the truckers.

No timetable has been announced for the resumption of talks between the port workers and employers.