Strike Support Grows Over Government’s Unemployment ‘Punishment’

More Finnish unions sign up for 24 hour strike in February.

Union sign reads "Voice for the Unemployed" / Credit: SAK

A strike called for next Friday is attracting more support from Finnish unions.

Today, the Finnish Industrial Union Teollisuusliitto said its members would participate in the 24 hour work stoppage, to protest against the government’s ‘active model’ which would deduct benefits from unemployed people if they don’t apply for jobs, do some work, or take courses within a certain period of time.

Some campaigners against the new system, which was introduced at the start of the year, have described it as ‘punishment’ for unemployed people. [Read more about one unemployed man’s fight to force the government to repeal the new ‘active model’ law at our original story here].

Teollisuusliitto Chairman Riku Aalto says the centre right government lead by the Centre Party’s Juha Sippilä has not shown any desire to look for a solution to the problems of the active model.

He hopes that a civic initiative involving protests and strikes will prompt the government to rethink their plans.

“It may be that we also have to consider what will happen in the future if this strike does not have the effect of making the government re-evaluate the situation” says Aalto.

More Unions Getting Involved

Teollisuusliitto had announced before Christmas that it was preparing for industrial action, and now joins the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK; the Transport Workers Union AKT; and the Federation of Finnish Construction Industries in supporting the strike protests.

Next Friday’s strike applies to all shifts that begin that day, with a few exceptions like jobs in health and safety, and the media. But trucks, busses, and building sites are likely to be affected.

A focal point of the anti-government protests will be Senate Square in Helsinki where a rally starts at 11:00 on Friday 2nd February.

Alternative Proposal

SAK has proposed its own alternative to the ‘active model’.

The union would first give a warning to any jobseeker who fails to find work, engage in self-employment or participate in services over a three-month period. Only after that could there be some financial penalty, in the form of reduced unemployment benefits. And the cuts would be less severe than the government has introduced.

“The proposed scheme reflects our view of how jobseekers should be treated in a society based on trust. We are developing various ideas this year and we shall also submit proposals concerning ways for trade unions and unemployment funds to help their members find work” says Saana Siekkinen, SAK’s Development Project Manager.

“The present jobseeker activation scheme needs repealing, and sanctions must be simplified. They are currently quite unreasonable and Byzantine” she states.