Finnair has been forced to cancel at least 257 flights scheduled to depart on Monday after the Finnish aviation labour union was given the go-ahead to hold a 24-hour “sympathy strike” at Helsinki airport. A further 26 flights were axed on Sunday evening as critical services at the airport started to wind down in preparation for the strike.
Annoyingly for Finnair and the 20,000 passengers that are estimated to be impacted by the walkout, the dispute doesn’t actually have anything to do with either the airline, Helsinki airport or even the aviation labour union that has called on its members to down tools. Instead, tomorrow’s walkout, that will likely grind services at the country’s primary airport to a halt, stems from a bitter pay dispute at Finland’s national postal service.
Around 9,000 employees at the state-owned company have been on strike for around three weeks and several unions that represent different industries have pledged their support for Posti workers. According to Reuters, the Finnish Seafarers’ Union has been stalling passenger and cargo ships carrying the Finnish flag since last Monday.
Both the Finnish Aviation Union (IAU) and Transport Workers’ Union (AKT) announced they would support the Finnish Post and Logistics Union in their bid to stop pay-cuts by holding a 24-hour “sympathy strike”. Finnair had hoped the dispute could be settled in-time to avoid disruption but said it had been making contingency plans should the walkout go-ahead.
“Finnair is not a party in the dispute related to the support strike, however, it’s impacts are now seriously disrupting the travel plans of over 20 000 Finnair customers,” explained Jaakko Schildt, Chief Operating Officer of Finnair.
“We are extremely sorry for the trouble and concern this situation is causing our customers, and we are doing our best to mitigate the impacts to them. We are working to find suitable reroutings for customers impacted by this, but rerouting such a large number of customers, unfortunately, takes some time,” Schildt continued.
Many of Finnair’s airport services are likely to be severely limited tomorrow. The airline’s customer services team based at Helsinki Airport will be involved in the walkout, and so too will catering workers and maintenance workers. In addition, aircraft loaders and refuelers, along with aircraft pushback tug drivers will all be on strike.
A spokesperson for Finnavia, which runs the airport says the effects of the walkout are likely to be felt on Tuesday will some disruption even after employees return to work.
Air traffic controllers in Italy are also staging a four-hour strike on Monday. The action may cause delays and some cancellations across Europe.