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Finnish port strike extends into third week

Finland’s main trade unions have extended into a third week their strike in Finnish ports that has severely restricted the country’s cargo operations. The unions said that talks with the government had proved “fruitless”.

The union representing Finnish dockworkers began the strike, but it was joined by others in solidarity. There are reports that 7,000 workers had been on strike since March 11th. Imports and exports were largely brought to a standstill.

Jarkko Eloranta, President of SAK (the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions) said that “we are disappointed. We have hoped for equality and a softening of hard actions for the employees. The government did not agree but still intends to implement numerous business life goals that are negative for employees. Many of them have no effect on employment or the balance of the public finances.”

One of the major areas of dispute is that the unions want to retain collective national agreements, which they want to conserve because the unions said that they had long been a part of the Scandinavian culture and workplace. The union says that other proposals would cut social security benefits and prevent “sympathy” strikes.

The trade association also wants to keep things as they are, which it described as the “rules of the game of working life built over decades”. A small majority of Finns were claimed to approve of the strike.

The unions highlight that this is a political strike and not an action against individual workplaces or for new contracts.

Container operations came to a halt as the strike began. Among the specific companies targeted are all the cargo operations of Viking Line in both Helsinki and Turku. Passenger operations are not impacted by the strike.