Nationwide strikes rock Finland

(Photo: Rakennusliitto)

Nationwide strikes swept across Finland, which garnered support from the global labour movement, including the Building and Wood Workers' International (BWI), as thousands of Finnish workers protested on 1 February 2024 against proposed labour market reforms.

The so-called reforms, spearheaded by Conservative Prime Minister Petteri Orpo's coalition government, want to implement measures to address the country's fiscal deficit and enhance long-term competitiveness by adopting what it called a "more export-driven labour market model." These have drawn widespread ire from various sectors of Finnish society, particularly trade unions, which view the reforms as detrimental to workers' rights and the social welfare system.

Workers from diverse industries including public transport, energy, education, healthcare, hospitality, retail, and the postal service have united in a two-day strike to voice their opposition. The strikes, unprecedented in scale, have disrupted essential services and halted economic activities across the country.

The proposed cuts to social benefits, such as the introduction of unpaid sick leave on the first day and reductions in earnings-related unemployment benefits, have been met with strong resistance from workers. Moreover, the reforms include restrictions on the right to strike, further exacerbating tensions between the government and labor unions.

In solidarity with Finnish workers, BWI stood alongside with its affiliates and partners in the country in their fight to defend workers' rights and uphold social welfare standards amid the unresolved issue.