Minister Sirpa Paatero resigns in Posti strike fallout

The issues around who knew what, and when, regarding Posti's plans to change collective bargaining agreements rumbles on.

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Prime Minister Antti Rinne (SDP) speaks to journalists at a press conference in Helsinki, 29th November 2019 / Credit: Laura Kotila, VNK

Government minister Sirpa Paatero (SDP) has handed in her resignation and gone on sick leave, the most high profile casualty yet from the recent postal strike.

Paatero’s title is Minister of Local Government and Ownership Steering which means she has oversight of state-owned enterprises like Posti.

“Minister Paatero has today submitted her resignation from the Government and I, for my
part, accepted the resignation” said Prime Minister Antti Rinne (SDP) at a Friday afternoon press conference.

Earlier on Friday it was reported that Paatero would take sick leave until 13th December but her resignation came after a call with Rinne, who says that Paatero had not sufficiently opposed the weakened working conditions proposed for some Posti employees.

Unions claimed that plans to move the collective bargaining agreement of around 700 workers from one union to another would have meant pay cuts of 30% to 50% for some parcel force workers, and they called for industrial action.

The issue was only resolved after weeks of talks between unions and employers, and the National Conciliator’s office.

File picture of Sirpa Paatero (SDP) Minister of Local Government and Ownership Steering / Credit: VNK

What is the problem now with Posti? 

The latest controversy about Posti came at the end of a two and a half week strike which saw thousands of postal workers stop working, and thousands of other workers taking sympathy strikes which impacted the airport, public transport and ferry services.

Earlier this week Mr Rinne claimed that Posti had tried to switch the collective bargaining agreements of 700 parcel workers without Paatero’s permission.

However Posti’s Chairman of the Board Markku Pohjola claimed that they had proper dialogue and support from Paatero during the whole process.

Paatero herself had previously said she didn’t know about Posti’s plans to shift collective bargaining agreements until 3rd September.

“We have had an ongoing dialogue between corporate governance and the company, where
officials have also played a key role. As has been said in public, Posti has informed the Minister of its plans to divest itself during the preparation process” says Pohjola in a statement.

“If the owner had a different position and it had been raised, we would have definitely reacted to it, even though it is a matter for the government to decide” the press release says.

In a Friday press conference the Prime Minister again said that Posti has acted incorrectly and that the position of Posti’s board will be reviewed.

According to Rinne, Posti has tried to fudge key dates related to the mail dispute in its communications.

Opposition parties are now getting involved in the debacle.

The National Coalition Party, Christian Democrats and Movement Now lodged an interpellation in parliament asking what government ministers knew, and when they knew it.

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