More than 30,000 people rallied in Helsinki on Friday (September 18) to protest against government plans to cut workers’ benefits. Strikes also stopped railways, harbours and paper mills around Finland.
The centre-right government, facing an economy in stagnation, announced plans last week to cut workers’ overtime pay, holidays and sickness benefits – matters traditionally agreed by labour unions and the employer organisations alone.
“The economy has not been well, but it will not recover by force, it requires cooperation,” Antti Rinne, leader of the opposition Social Democrats and a former union boss, said in a speech to the cheering crowd.
“You can be certain that rain, wind and thunderstorms will continue if you keep up this line,” he said, addressing his message to the government.
About 300,000 workers went out on strike on Friday. The demonstrators, mostly union activists, said it was unfair make cuts in sectors where salaries were already low. They expressed anger that the government had unilaterally pushed through the changes.
The Confederation of Finnish Industries estimated that Friday’s one-day strike cost the economy 100-million euros.