New Patient Safety Act threatens right to strike
Nurses could be ordered to work under threat of fines following new patient safety act
On 12th September 2022, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health completed a draft proposal for a Patient Safety Act that would enable authorities to limit the right to freedom of assembly of the Finnish Union of Practical Nurses (SuPer) and the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland (Tehy), as well as all trade unions and workers in the healthcare sector. The draft proposal was finalised in response to the strikes over monthly wages by nurses working in intensive care units in several Finnish cities. The proposal would not only grant regional authorities the power to order the unions to restrict strikes, but they can also order individual employees to work under the threat of fines, which have been presented as measures to guarantee patients’ safety. Although this act raised worrying concerns among the unions, on 13th September, the Finnish government agreed on the act and presented the bill for the parliament’s approval. Following the government’s approval, the parliamentary group of the Left Alliance parliamentary group announced that the bill, which restricts ‘’the right to strike’’, cannot be supported unless such aspects are improved. On the other hand, Prime Minister Sanna Marin stood by the government’s decision and called upon the left-wing coalition to vote in favour of the bill. Later, on 19th September 2022, the Finnish parliament passed the controversial patient safety law, with 109 votes in favour and 38 against the proposal. The scope of the bill was narrowed moderately in the last stage of the drafting to rule out all forms of social care except for home care that is essential for the health and life of the patient.
On the same day, Millariikka Rytkönen, the chairperson of the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland (Tehy), defined these acts as extreme and unprecedented in a press release, adding that ‘’the Parliament approved a forced labour law that tramples on the basic rights of nursing staff’’ and that even an agreement on wages may not solve the fracture with nurses after these latest developments.
Environmental rights protests
On 6th October 2022, Extinction Rebellion Finland staged a protest by halting traffic on Mannerheimintie, Helsinki, which lasted for approximately three hours. According to the authorities, the protesters had defied an earlier notice which deemed that the location was not a suitable site for the demonstration. Police ordered protesters to disperse and following this began to remove them. It is reported that 46 people were taken into custody for failing to comply with this order.
BREAKING! Greenpeace activists stop Russian fossil gas from being offloaded in Finland! Gas is imported to Finland by state-owned company @GasumGlobal. Activists demand prime minister @MarinSanna's government to stop the flow of Russian fossil fuels to Finland. #StopFuellingWar pic.twitter.com/AyKnEe7AO4— Greenpeace Suomi (@GreenpeaceSuomi) September 17, 2022
Earlier in September 2022, activists from environmental organisation Greenpeace blocked the unloading of a shipment of Russian gas at a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in northern Finland. They called on the Finnish government to halt imports of Russian gas.