News - 15.05.2014 klo 00.00

Number of strikes rose slightly in 2013

The number of labour disputes has risen somewhat in Finland, though the number is still low. In 2013 there were 121 labour disputes whereas in 2012 the number was 86.

 

The number of labour disputes has risen somewhat in Finland, though the number is still low. In 2013 there were 121 labour disputes whereas in 2012 the number was 86.

The figures come from the latest data published by Statistics Finland and detail labour disputes organised by employees or employers in Finland. Most labour disputes result in strikes organised by employees. Last year 108 out of a total number of 121 labour disputes involved strikes.

The number of participants and lost working days is, however, relatively low in comparison with most of the years during this millennium. Last year 19,567 people were involved in strike action and 25,999 working days were lost.

The most common reason for labour disputes revolved around redundancies and lay-offs or the threat that the labour force would be scaled back. This accounts for almost half the cases. Another common reason for labour disputes was work management. Collective agreement discord accounted for only eight of the disputes.

This means, in effect, that labour disputes are in most cases swift responses or reactions to plans or actions taken by the employer.

What can the weaker party do?

Janne Metsämäki, Director of Collective Bargaining of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK sees the number of strikes as being relatively low in Finland. He stresses that the strike is a weapon of the last resort, and never employed for minor or petty reasons.

"The number of strikes linked to collective agreements was in fact quite low considering that many agreements were negotiated last year."

Employers have broken the law and collective agreements in working places relatively often, according to the recent SAK survey aimed at their local level shop stewards and other activists. One out of three said this has occurred at their place of work.

Four out of ten of those who took part in the survey said that these kinds of disputes have been on the increase during the last year. Only one out of ten ventured the opinion that there has been a decline in disputes of this nature.

"What can the weaker party then do? Employees feel that a short strike is their only way to express their discontent with the employer's actions. Otherwise the situation will not improve", Metsämäki says.

The number of labour disputes fell dramatically in Finland at the end of the 1980's. The top year for strikes in the 1970's was 1976 with 3,282 strikes. The last major year for strikes was in 1988 with 1,352 labour disputes. In this millennium the top year is 2005 with 365 labour disputes.

Heikki Jokinen

Written by: SYSTEM