Strikes Hinder Finnish Trade

Friday, March 31, 2000
Finnish exports and imports were almost at a standstill last week as a strike over a wage claim by transport workers supported by stevedores and seamen went into a second day. The state labor mediation office said no new talks had been scheduled between unions and employers.

Harri Tuulensuu, director of the Federation of Finnish Master Stevedores, said municipal ports were for the most part closed, although an insignificant volume of traffic was moving in Helsinki and Hamina, due to certain special agreements.

A few industrial harbors linked to the refineries of energy group Fortum and steel group Rautaruukki were still operating as their stevedores were not members of the striking AKT union. But due to the seamen's sympathy strike they too could face difficulties, Tuulensuu said.

Pekka Sylvander, head of Fortum's Porvoo refinery and Rautaruukki's spokesman Esko Lukkari said the strike had not yet affected production or shipments.

But they said problems could arise in a few weeks as lorry drivers transporting chemicals needed in production - but not oil and petrol - were on sympathy strike.

The strike started last Wednesday as 10,000 truck and bus drivers and workers at transport terminals stopped work and some 5,500 stevedores and the truck drivers came out in sympathy.

In addition, the Finnish seamen's union decided to support the strike by halting the transport of foreign cargo in vessels sailing under the Finnish flag.

The road transport employers responded with a lockout at more than 300 companies and around 15,000 employees.

The Confederation of Finnish Industry and Employers (TT) has estimated the strike by the stevedores will stop daily foreign trade of around $193.2 million moving through ports.

Risto Alanko, a senior TT official, said all transit trade to Russia via Finland would end due to the strikes and Finnish paper exports would halt.

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