Finnish nurses threaten all-out strike

Finland: More than 12,000 Finnish nurses have said they will resign en masse this morning in protest at low pay

Finland:More than 12,000 Finnish nurses have said they will resign en masse this morning in protest at low pay. Some may show up for work, however, not because they want to but because they have been forced.

A month ago public-sector nurses signed a letter announcing that they would quit today unless the government agreed to their demand for a 24 per cent pay rise over two years.

Currently, a senior nurse in Finland earns €1,970 a month, significantly less than in neighbouring Sweden. Instead of the demanded average of €500 extra a month, however, local authorities offered €30.

Unions say the offer is a slap in the face, as ruling parties promised pay rises during this year's election campaign.


After negotiations broke down on Thursday, the centre-right government rushed through a new "patient safety bill" obliging even nurses who quit today to show up for work in intensive care and emergency stations.

To avoid the call-up, union leaders have advised their members to switch off their phones and to ignore their doorbells.

The extraordinary strike is just the latest dispute in Finland, which is in the grip of strike fever. Some 40,000 workers across the country are either already on strike or are threatening to walk out over pay demands.

About 7,000 engineers went on strike on Friday calling for an extra 17 per cent over three years. Last month, metal industry workers walked off the job for five days and secured a 8.8 per cent wage increase.

Many employers have already met pay demands to avoid industrial action: retail workers have been given a 9.8 per cent increase over two years while electricians have secured 12 per cent in the same period.

Critics blame the wave of strikes on the government's decision to promote sector-by-sector negotiations over traditional co-operative bargaining.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin