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Finland strike closes cargo freight services at all Finnish ports

 Finnish foreign trade and production in major processing industries came to a complete standstill on Monday, due to strikes by major trade unions against the government’s labor and social security reform plans.

The strikes, set to last two weeks, are the latest in a wave of labor protests since last December.

However, Finland’s Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said last week that the cabinet will not backtrack on its reform plans, some of which have already passed the parliamentary process.

The reforms include cutbacks in unemployment benefits, increasing opportunities for companies to break away from union tariff agreements, and restricting political or sympathy strikes in the labor market. The government has also proposed a wage model in which wage increases in the export industry would set the ceiling for all other sectors of the Finnish economy.

The unions maintain that the reforms solely reflect the interests of employers.

Monday’s union strikes closed cargo freight services at all Finnish ports, although container transport via trucks using passenger ferries and air freight was unaffected. Major processing industry plants are to remain closed.

The Association of Retailers said customers may face shortages of some imported fresh products, such as fruit.

Finnish fuel producer Neste has reached an exemption agreement with the unions concerning its oil refinery in Finland, but it said local deliveries to pumps may face problems.

Neste produces aviation fuel, but the situation at Helsinki airport looked uncertain on Monday. The Finnish air traffic administrator Finntraffic told airlines that fuel deliveries to the airport had ceased.

Finnair said earlier that it would mainly refuel its aircraft abroad during the strike. However, long-haul flights may require technical landings for refueling, which will extend flight times.

The Confederation of Industries (EK) has estimated that the latest strike will result in losses of around 370 million euros (404 million U.S. dollars). Strikes during the winter cost over one billion euros in economic losses, EK said. (1 euro = 1.09 U.S. dollar)

Famagusta Gazette