Monday. 24.02.2020
El tiempo

10 important facts to understand the Posti workers strike

Around 2,000 employees of the handling and sorting services are on strike in an attempt to curb a wage cut that would reduce their monthly salaries by 660 euros. The strike gained intensity on Monday and Tuesday and generated outrage among Finns as the earnings of the company's CEO were published. Posti is one of the first job options for many foreigners when they arrive in Finland.


Posti night shift workers on strike in Jyväskylä. Photo: PAU-Liitto (Instagram).
Posti night shift workers on strike in Jyväskylä. Photo: PAU-Liitto (Instagram).
10 important facts to understand the Posti workers strike

The workers of the fully state-owned Finnish postal service company (Posti) are on strike since last Sunday night. The employees of the handling and sorting services intend to curb a wage cut announced by the company that would leave many of them on the poverty line. 

The strike, which began as a regular labor conflict among employers and employees, gained intensity on Monday and Tuesday and generated a wave of outrage among Finns, as the earnings of the company's top managers were known.

Delays in deliveries of letters and packages, which are the employer's main argument to discredit strikers in front of the public opinion, have now become a secondary issue.

Posti is one of the first job options for many foreigners when they arrive in Finland. Below there is a list of basic facts to understand this conflict.

1- What caused the strike?

Posti announced on Thursday 29 August a plan to cut the wages of roughly 700 workers of its parcel-sorting division and online shops in the name of competitiveness.

The company's managers intend to do so by transferring this work under the scope of a new collective agreement negotiated by Teollisuusliitto (Finnish Industrial Union) and Medialiitto (Finnmedia). In addition to earning less money, the transfer under the new agreement will bring other reductions on work conditions.

2- How much will the pay cut be?

The Finnish Post and Logistics Union (PAU) -the biggest labour market organization for the employees and officers on the branch- has calculated that the company's plan will cause pay cuts of an average of 30% and a maximum of 50%.

3- How much Posti workers earn?

The average salary of a postal worker in Finland is 2,200 euros per month (before taxes). A 30% salary reduction would mean losing 660 euros every month and would leave many existing wages on the poverty line.

4- Why unions reject the new agreement?

PAU underlines that the new agreement, named Collective Agreement Concerning Delivery Personnel, has been made just for early morning newspaper distribution, and therefore is not applicable for postal handling and sorting jobs.

5- Who are on strike?

Around 2,000 postal service workers employed in handling and sorting jobs from the main post and logistics centers of the country (Helsinki, Tampere, Oulu, Kuopio, Jyväskylä, Lappeenranta, Vantaa, Seinäjoki, Lieto....) are currently on strike.

6- How long will the strike last?

The strike began on Sunday 1 September at 22:00 and it will end on Wednesday 4 September at midnight. Employees are expected to return to work in the early hours of Thursday 5 September.

7- I work at Posti, can I be punished for participating?

According to PAU, the jobs should not be done by anyone and any work undone is not the worker's responsibility. Not even if the worker was hired through temporary agencies, and not even if the employer claims the strike is illegal, as the Posti Group did. The question about the legality of the strike will be decided later in court, and the union will be held accountable, not the workers.

When a trade union or its chapters decide on industrial actions, no matter if later they are declared legal or illegal, they also bear full responsibility. And if the employee acts in accordance with the decision of the union, the employer can not terminate their employment. And if a warning is given, it has no weight on the employment.

If a worker does not participate in the strike, the local chapter will decide on penalties, which may include dismissal from the chapter/union.

8- Why are Finnish people outraged?

Strikes in any public service always cause nuisances and inconveniences to citizens. However, in this case what has outraged most Finns is finding out that the CEO of Posti, Heikki Malinen, earned almost 990,000 euros in wages, bonuses and incentives in 2018. This accounted for a monthly income of around 82,500 euros.

According to Helsingin Sanomat, Malinen's earnings increased by 48% since 2016, when he reported an income of 668,902 euros. Knowing that a manager of a public company earns that much money has caused more shock among the Finnish population than the delays in receiving letters and parcels.

Photo: Posti

9- What was the CEO's response?

On Monday, in an attempt to calm down those who criticized him, the company's CEO informed the Board of Directors that he would not collect his 46,000 euros base salary of two monthsHeikki Malinen. Credit: Posti

But Malinen's decision only served to make the unions and other political actors even more angry. The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL) denounced it as an "arrogant gesture". The Left Alliance said it was a "charity stunt".

10- What does the Government say?

The Minister of Local Government and Ownership Steering, Sirpa Paatero (from the Social Democratic Party), said in press conference on Tuesday that the Government intends to review the remuneration of Posti's top managers. 

She added that salaries paid to executives have been excessive and further negotiations would take place this autumn between the postal workers' union and the company regarding any changes to the collective agreement.

The Finnish Prime Minister, Antti Rinne (Social Democratic Party) also considered "shocking" the evolution of the postal service managers earnings. Especially, he said, in a time of "constant job cuts and the planned 30% cut in worker's wages". "We have a good old saying in Finland: Fairness to everything", he added.