Retail labour dispute escalates – employers asked to stop collecting union membership fees


THE FINNISH Commerce Federation has taken action in response to the strike threats issued by Service Union United (PAM).

The Commerce Federation on Tuesday announced it has decided to stop deducting union membership fees from wages and disbursing them to the trade union starting on 15 February, citing the fact that the fees are used to finance the “massive wave of strikes” looming over the retail sector.

Anna Lavikkala, the head of labour market affairs at the Commerce Federation, said the federation cannot sit idly by and passively monitor the “disproportionate” strikes targeted at employers in the midst of collective bargaining negotiations.

“Employers simply have no choice in this situation but to resort to measures available to them outside the negotiating table,” she stated in a press release.

The announcement came a day after the trade union had issued a warning of a strike affecting 415 workplaces with altogether 26,000 workers and managerial employees between 16 and 18 February. The strike would cover, for example, all K-Citymarkets, Prismas and Lidls, as well as the terminals of Kesko Logistics in Tampere, Turku, Kuopio and Oulu.

PAM on Monday said the warning is an attempt to expedite the ongoing collective bargaining negotiations in the retail sector. Attempts to resolve the escalating dispute will continue today under the guidance of the national conciliator.

“We are now in a situation where negotiations do not seem to be moving forward in any sector, and that is why we hope that the strike warnings demonstrate to employers more broadly that the labour movement is collectively seeking pay rises,” commented Annika Rönni-Sällinen, the chairperson of PAM.

PAM has also banned overtime work, shift swaps and shift transfers at all shops and logistics centres in the retail sector as of Wednesday, 1 February.

The Commerce Federation earlier described the strikes as irresponsible.

“Recurring waves of strikes only delay pay rises and settlements because no conciliation or negotiations will take place during strikes. They will also mark the end of the road for jointly pursued reforms and projects related to employment terms and conditions for a long time. The pressure created by strikes is the opposite to what trade unions imagine they will achieve,” viewed Lavikkala.

Strikes, she added, also increase food wast in shops.

The first of the retail sector strikes is set to take place at 25 logistics centres on 6–9 February, the second at over 160 retail workplaces, including several hypermarkets in large cities, on 9–11 February. Also taking place before the action announced yesterday is a strike affecting the operations of 47 logistics centres on 13–16 February.

The Industrial Union will additionally organise a secondary strike in support of PAM.

Finland is presently facing a massive wave of strikes as trade unions across industries are seeking to make progress in collective bargaining negotiations and secure the pay rises that they believe are needed to preserve the purchasing power of wage earners in the inflationary environment. The Industrial Union, for example, has issued three strike warnings in the chemical and technology industries, the first of which began today at 50 workplaces employing around 7,200 people.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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