On 11th of November Finnish postal services went on strike. The strike initially included about 9000 workers. The strike began because of an attempt to severely cut the workers wages.
It is worth pointing out that the postal services are of course owned by the state, and Finland currently has a “social-democratic” government, which pretends to be on the side of the workers.
The pay cuts were planned together by the leaders of the postal services (Posti Group) and state politicians. The supposedly “leftist” social-democrats were pushing these wage cuts.
Events like this can be severely demoralizing to the workers, because they feel like they have nobody to turn to. If the right-wing parties implement wage cuts, the workers will naturally vote for the social-democrats instead. But if the social-democrats themselves are implementing wage cuts just like the right-wing parties – then what can the workers do? Become confused, apathetic, surrender to the mercy of the capitalist corporations.
As communists it is our job to point out that social-democrats are not real leftists. They are frauds. They are mere servants of the capitalists. When push comes to shove, the social-democrats never side with the workers. They never side with workers when the going gets hard. The strikers received absolutely no help from the social-democrats in the government.
The social-democrats have shown themselves to be frauds once again, and all honest, class conscious workers must instead side with communists. Communists and some independent progressives, trade-unions and the workers themselves were the only ones supporting the strikers. Even the “Left Alliance“ Party sided with the government, not the workers.
After the strike had lasted two weeks, on 25th of November it expanded to include various other workers related to the postal services in the Post and Logistics Union (PAU). The amount of strikers reached over 10 000.
The Service Union United (PAM), Finnish Seafarers´ Union (FSU), Finnish Aviation Union (IAU), Finnish Food Workers’ Union (SEL) and Finnish Electrical Workers´ Union joined in the struggle by striking in solidarity or boycotting the postal services. They wouldn’t deliver or handle packages for them, electrical workers wouldn’t repair electrical issues for the postal service etc. Transport Workers’ Union (AKT) and The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL) also announced short strikes and other actions in solidarity.
The postal service workers announced they would strike at least until Christmas unless their demands are met. Further strikes in solidarity by other unions were promised for December.
The Industrial Union is in the middle of its own struggle against the governments’ and the capitalists’ attempts to increase work hours without increasing pay. The Industrial Union voiced its solidarity for the strikers, and announced it would also go on strike in select work places and companies starting December 9th.
The conclusion of the strike
The strike ended on 27th of November with a defensive victory by the workers.
The Post and Logistics Union said in their announcement:
“PAU prevented the employers attempts to significantly lower wages and implement worse labor contract terms. [The attempt to switch certain workers to worse labor terms] was prevented…”
It was completely outrageous to try to cut wages of postal workers. They are already poorly paid, and perform demanding and necessary work. They are already understaffed and underpaid as a result of austerity, cuts and lay-offs by the government.
The government and the capitalists clearly thought the workers were completely crushed and apathetic, if they would allow this to happen. But they were wrong. The workers finally had enough, and rose up to fight for their rights. This demonstrates that there is a limit to how much the workers will tolerate!
As a further result, the minister responsible for state owned companies was forced to step down. The Social-democrats now pretend that they had nothing to do with this entire farce, and instead put all the blame on the state ownership minister. The right-wing parties in the opposition to the Social-democrats now opportunistically use this to bolster their support. But we should remember how catastrophic the policies of the previous government of the Right-wing “National Coalition”, The Center Party and the Nationalist “Finns Party” were. The previous government was a government of the 3 most right-wing parties, and their policies were even worse for the people: privatizing healthcare, increasing unpaid work hours, massive lay-offs in state owned workplaces etc.
The parties in the parliament are all the same. The only solution for thinking, honest and class conscious working people is to side with communists.
What can we learn about this strike?
We can clearly see the treacherousness of Social-democrats and reformists. Further, we can see that workers will defend their interests when pushed far enough.
That said, the strike was merely a defensive action. The strike succeeded in defending the workers this time, but the capitalists will restart their attack again. We shouldn’t be satisfied completely with this result. We need to work towards improving the conditions of the workers.
What should we do?
Our task is to use situations like these strikes to increase the level of class consciousness. Workers are conscious enough to defend their interests against capitalist wage cuts, but not yet conscious enough to split with social-democrats and reformists. We have to use situations like this to tell workers that capitalism tries to screw them over.
If in your work environment its not possible to talk about communism, you should instead just criticize capitalist corporations, corrupt social-democrat and capitalist politicians etc. and tell your co-workers how important it is to belong to a trade-union.
We have to demonstrate to workers that their interests are the polar opposite of the capitalists’ interests, and that they must break with social-democrats and reformists. Workers must stop supporting bourgeois parties and must oppose reformist leaders in trade-unions.
Strikes and protests like this are an opportunity for us to push people further to the left and to radicalize them, as well as recruit those who are already more sympathetic. It is important for communists to belong to trade-unions, and be as active in them as possible because they are a more favorable place for us communists to spread our views, and to gain and maintain solid ties with the working class.
Update: Prime minister resigns
In the aftermath of the strike, the Centre Party, the main government partner of the Social-democrats turned against the Social-democrats and gave a motion of no confidence to towards the prime minister.
The prime minister resigned on 3. of December.