Security strike: “many companies would pay their receptionists better, but not the security guards who do the job”

After talks break down, the two sides say they're not sure when they will meet again as industrial action continues.

File picture of Vartija security guard reflective vest / Credit: News Now Finland

Finland is facing yet another day of strikes, as thousands of security guards take part in industrial action over three days from Wednesday to Friday.

Some 8,500 workers belonging to the United Service Union PAM are on strike, affecting security services at train stations and airports in particular.

Security guards have been working without a collective bargaining agreement since May, and the strike action comes after talks with the National Conciliator broke down on Monday when unions and employers failed to find common ground on increased pay and better working conditions.

Life of a security guard

“The main reason we’re on strike is simply the fact that all other service jobs are getting their periodical raises, except the security industry” says Toni, a security guard in Helsinki who asked us not to use his full name as he wasn’t authorised by his managers to speak to the media.

“The brutal truth is most security work is rather boring. I’ve done a wide range of tasks like receptionist-type security work where the main focus is purely customer service. Here the main problems is the need of people with a good set of social skills, language skills, good technological skills, also hopefully a skill set that they could help if a fire started, or use force in the correct professional way, and knows security planning. All this for just €1800 per month. Many companies would pay their receptionists better, but not the security guards who do the job” says Toni.

Apart from receptionist jobs, Toni has also worked other security guard duties like transferring cash, and on mobile patrols that drive around to different premises at opening and closing times.

“This is simple and the lowest pay. But every once in a while you confront violent people, mostly because of night hours” says the 24-year-old.

Toni has been working as a security guard for three years and says there’s no real pecking order when it comes to the different jobs, each has their advantages.

People working on mobile patrols have the lowest basic pay and long shifts where 12 to 16 hours is not unusual. But working at night means they can get extra pay bonuses. A security guard working on reception is more likely to have a normal shift from 08:00 to 16:00 and not get any extra allowances.

“It’s such a wide field, and different assignments require such different skill sets. Some are boring as hell, but if something goes wrong it could be devastating like at a factory or a nuclear power plant” he explains.

File picture of Securitas guard in Levi, Lapland / Credit: Securitas Instagram

Unions speak out

The United Service Union PAM says that the two sides had reached a deal on pay increases, but came to an impasse about how those increases would be allocated – with unions saying that employers are not willing to reward security guards for their experience or professional training.

“These are the very people who are the backbone of companies, and their skills are an important factor when customers put security guarding services out to tender. Those who can show they have professional workers are also likely to win the best contracts” says PAM President Ann Selin in a press release.

From the perspective of the Service Industry Employers Union Palta, more talks are needed not strikes – although more industrial action has already been called for 7th November by two other large security companies Securitas Oy and Securitas Palvelut Oy.

“It’s obvious of course every strike is harmful for business. People are on strike and businesses have to make some extra arrangements” says Palta’s Labour Market Manager Olli Nurminen.

“We started these discussions in spring time, half a year ago, and we are so far away from how we see it with the companies, what we can pay” he tells News Now Finland.

“The process is with the National Conciliator, but we don’t know yet the next time we will meet. Right now we don’t have any negotiations between PAM and Palta because of the strike. But we think always negotiations are the best way to solve problems, not a strike” says Nurminen.