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Nation-wide general strike today

September 18, 2015

The governing coalition is getting an earful from the populace today. Today represents one of the largest general strikes Finland has seen since the 1980s. Virtually all services are affected, namely all public transit, which has forced people to make other arrangements for work. I rode my bike to work today – and with a storm set to blow through later on, I just hope I don’t get blown off the road on my way back home.

The Helsinki Times has made a pretty comprehensive list of what is affected today. See it here.

On that note the media is making a circus out of it, and it’s just – weird – live streaming of protests? Why?

Fortunately many of my co-workers have not been affected by today’s action and a lot of us can either work from home or were able to find other ways to get to work.

I was in Canada when a lot of the news was published about the plans the government had, so I am not quite up to speed on what the proposals and what they mean for my family. In a nutshell, this is what is: Many workers in the service industry are protesting because of proposed cuts to wages and time off. People who work on Sundays currently receive double pay. With the government set to scrap that altogether, it affects a lot people in essential services like law enforcement, nursing and firefighting. These people are already paid peanuts in this country and their work is far more valuable than their current salaries dictate. There is also a plan to schedule two national holidays on weekends and cancel the first day of sick leave pay and the following days at 80 percent pay. (That is a stupid idea – do you know how many people are going to go to work sick? I will!) The Finance Minister, Alexander Stubb has said that proposed changes in the labour market will stimulate the economy and create thousands of jobs. I predict right now that NO jobs will be created as a result of the proposals that are being tabled. With big pay cuts and cuts to benefits people will lose purchasing power, so where will those jobs come from then?

I think the government should take a much better measure of what the working people of this country are willing to do in order to avoid cuts that will make our lives and society a much uglier place to live in. Start listening to the people instead of being a bunch of bullies. I also really pissed off at the glaring absence of any women involved in these labour agreement negotiations. The proposed cuts and changes will definitely affect the lives of women in this country. It really feels like Finland is being run by the Old Boys Club.

A couple of things I’d like to see (very broad suggestions):

  • A junk food tax (A broad-reaching idea, but even a few cents added to the price of chips, pop, energy drinks, candy, ice cream and the like would add a lot of money to the coffers.)
  • An increase in the prices on alcohol and tobacco products. Again, a few cents increase on this product group will bring in revenue.
  • The child benefit from KELA is about EUR 95 per month and it was reduced some time ago. I am willing to take a smaller payment if it helps save money. Cutting it completely, however, would not be useful.
  • Finland imports a lot of temporary foreign labour every year to work on farms and pick berries and mushrooms. One thing I would really like to see is the red tape reduced for refugee claimants who are not allowed to work while waiting for their decisions to come down. At least that is my understanding.) Instead of importing foreign labour, allow these people to work on farms, etc. while they wait. At least they then get a head start on integrating, learning the language and the money they earn will likely stay in Finland as they consume products and services here.
  • The City of Espoo has suggested that people volunteer to take care of parks and public spaces. In fact I have done just that for a park area near my home, because park maintenance services are one of the first things to be cut. Why don’t more people take on the task of cleaning things up and maintaining properties? I did suggest that in an earlier entry, but maybe this is something that needs to be tabled.
  • Find a way to keep healthcare costs down. First and foremost we should take better care of ourselves and adopt a preventative healthcare strategy. Keeping people healthy and active from day one will reduce costs in the future.
  • People in Finland have to stop expecting to be taken care of by the government. It is clear that this cannot continue. We also need to start thinking like a community rather than individuals. We need to work together to get things done, so let’s do that!
  • Stop giving subsidies to people who can damn well afford to take care of their own properties with their own money. (Björn Wahlroos is apparently one of the largest recipients of Finnish farming subsidies from the government and the guy is a friggin’ millionaire.)

The fact is, we as workers are pretty lucky in Finland: several weeks of holidays a year, (if available) workplace benefits (i.e. health care, access to specialists without having to wait) and holiday pay. With the government set to make changes unilaterally, we all have to be willing to give up something, although I don’t agree with the way things are being bullied through. In the words of the Prime Minister, and I do agree with him on this: (When EU countries were giving Greece advice.) “It’s now time for us to put the advice to use. We can’t end up in a situation where others are making the decisions.”

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 19, 2015 1:13 pm

    The government is not planning to cut Sunday double pay altogether. It will just be reduced from 100% to 75%. The package does also include some improvements for workers like the 2500 euros related to having kids. To me it seems the primary motivation of the package is to motivate the unions to agree on other measures like reducing holiday bonus.

  2. anonymous permalink
    September 21, 2015 3:14 pm

    You might want to read (and translate) this for perspective..

  3. Sonia permalink
    September 22, 2015 11:25 pm

    For the first time, I am disappointed and rather prefer anonymous’ link…

    Let’s tax fun, air and laughter… Come on, more taxes on alcohol, sweets… I would agree if they were visibly invested in the area for prevention – but no, they are not! They disappear in the bottomless bucket of the oversized Finnish public sector!

    Car tax – look at the quality of roads (I mean also outside of the wolves ring).
    Alcohol tax – the money goes to Estonia and addicts needing help don’t get help.
    Obesity, allergies, health issues – motivate for self-prevention, provide modern, efficient prevention, don’t punish for not fulfilling the standard.

    What would help most is:
    – downsize public sector, increase its efficiency, stop local isolated over-administration of it
    – stop oligopolies, stop killing small entrepreneurs
    – reduce bureaucracy especially for foreign investment
    – stop demonizing foreign products, but prove that yours are “better”
    – get properly know different business environments, start exploiting (bad word) the know-how which is already in the country – unused
    – stop talking about “suomalaista osaamista”, start marketing it. Properly marketing. Compete. Finland cannot survive without exports.

  4. April 23, 2016 4:14 pm

    Talking and proposals are easy. Everyone can do those. The actions are the only thing that matters. I bet if your proposals would be put in place, nothing would change, except the complainers. They never change. I mean do you even know what you are talking about? Have you had any experience in these matters? It’s way, way too easy to complain and pretend that you know something about things, when you don’t have to do anything yourself.

    If there is one thing I hate, it’s idle talk.


  1. Is the Finnish government in disarray? | Life in Finland (and beyond)

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