On December 3 2019, Twitter user Matt Bruenig tweeted about a “fun series of events in Finland”:
In the tweet, Bruenig said:
A fun series of events in Finland:
1. Postal service cuts pay of 700 sorters.
2. Strike called. 60k workers join in solidarity, shutting down docks, rail, buses, airlines.
3. Postal service cancels pay cut.
4. Minister of state ownership resigns.
5. Prime minister resigns.
Bruenig’s tweet was liked and shared thousands of times on Twitter as well as Facebook, shared by a user and the Facebook page “Mr Rogers Guillotine Emporium.” At least one post about the tweet appeared on Reddit, too:
On the Facebook post to “Mr Rogers Guillotine Emporium,” somebody commented:
I am proud of my country for this. The Posti company also tried to lie to the workers that the strikes are illegal, but because we know our rights even more people joined in on the strikes. The whole capital area (Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa) had unsure public transportation because about 60% of the bus drivers joined in on the strike, but it ended before the tram and metro drivers joined in. The trains ran with passangers, but not cargo. The cruise ships were shored. It was glorious.
Another response — apparently by an American — observed that type of action seemed far more feasible in Finland, where universal healthcare ensured that workers who joined strikes wouldn’t lose their access to insurance:
Their health insurance isn’t tied to their employment. Our jobs are hostage situations in which we can die if we don’t comply.
Although discourse around the tweet and reposts of it broadly supported the purported actions of workers in Finland, most commenters seemed to take the tweet’s claims at face value. Bruenig shared what amounted to bulletpoints which claimed:
- Finland’s postal service cut the pay of 700 people;
- Workers called a general strike, in which approximately 60,000 Finnish workers participated;
- Under mounting pressure, the pay cut in question was “canceled”;
- Both the Prime Minister of Finland and a minister of state ownership resigned their positions in the wake of the strike.
Posti.fi, the site for Finland’s mail service (Posti) bore a message in early December 2019 indicating that the service would “clear any shipments left untreated during PAU’s strike as soon as possible.” A linked post on the site noted that the relevant union (Finnish Post and Logistics Union/PAU) had agreed to terms then-recently and ended a strike.
On November 27 2019, the Associated Press reported that postal workers in Finland had ended a two-week strike which began after 700 package handlers’ salaries were cut:
A strike by Finland’s postal workers that [had] dragged on for over two weeks has ended after a deal was reached on pay.
The union representing employees of the state-owned Posti postal service said it was satisfied with the agreement reached [November 27 2019] over the work contracts of about 700 package handlers.
That reporting didn’t identify 60,000 workers striking in solidarity, but mentioned that workers across Finland’s transport industries held a “sympathy strike”:
On [November 25 2019], the Nordic country’s transport sector held a sympathy strike to support the postal workers, prompting flagship airline Finnair to cancel almost 300 flights and disrupting business in the capital.
Bruenig’s second assertion — that 60,000 workers joined the strike in solidarity — was slightly more difficult to substantiate. International news stories on the Finland strike tended to be brief, and while it mentioned solidarity by a transport workers’ union, specific numbers were typically not reported.
That precise figure appeared on a November 22 2019 post to MetaFilter titled “Crossing the Finnish line”:
Over 60,000 people in Finland are about to go on strike to prevent 700 postal workers from a wage cut, in the biggest labor action seen in years. Unless there is a dramatic resolution over the weekend, on Monday most of Finland’s employees in unions related to the public transit, air travel and ocean travel and shipping industries will go on strike, potentially paralyzing the country and impacting the economy.
That post linked to external pages, but we didn’t find the 60,000 workers figure in any of the linked reporting. Several of the pages linked in the first paragraph of the post were to specific involved unions in Finland, whose landing pages described membership estimates.
One link pointed to the Finnish Seafarers Union (FSU), which claimed 9,500 members on its page. In a message dated November 27 2019, the FSU thanked its 9,500 members for joining in the strike:
The Finnish Seafarers’ Union’s supporting actions relating to the PAU [Posti] labour strike have ended and all supporting actions announced by the Finnish Seafarers’ Union are cancelled … The Finnish Seafarers’ Union SMU ry thanks all of its members for their sense of responsibility and solidarity in defending the terms of employment of transport sector employees.
Another link pointed to a page published by Transport Workers’ Union (AKT). AKT noted that it “represents and promotes the interests of 47000 transport professionals.” AKT’s 47,000 members along with FSU’s 9,500 members totaled 56,500 members — or 60,000 if rounding to a more even number. That did not account for the possible involvement of smaller unions.
On November 18 2019, Yle reported that looming larger strikes were anticipated, along with a near stoppage of transport services in Helsinki due to AKT’s intention to strike alongside PAU:
Public transport in the capital city could come to a standstill [in November 2019] if the Posti dispute continues without a resolution, after the Transport Workers’ Union AKT announced a sympathy strike in support of the ongoing national postal workers’ strike.
If implemented, the 24-hour strike that would commence on Monday, 25 November  at 3 am and will affect buses of local and commuter services in the Greater Helsinki region.
Helsinki Regional Transport Authority (HSL) will not be arranging for substitute bus services during the strike.
Two days later, Yle published an article about controversy involving the minister overseeing state ownership, a position mentioned in Bruenig’s fourth bulletpoint:
The minister responsible for state ownership steering has admitted she did know about plans to move 700 workers at the state-owned postal firm Posti to a different collective agreement, and set up a working group to report on possible way forwards in the deadlocked dispute.
She had earlier said that she was not asked for approval by bosses at the state-owned postal firm Posti when they weakened the terms and conditions for around 700 workers in parcel sorting offices.
The company transferred the workers, who were previously employed directly by Posti, to its subsidiary Posti Palvelut.
The minister, Sirpa Paatero, had on [November 25 2019] told commercial broadcaster MTV that she was not at any point asked for her approval of the move. But in a statement released on [that] afternoon she clarified that she had been informed about the plan in general terms before it happened but was not specifically asked for permission.
The resignation of Sirpa Paatero (sd), Minister of Local Government and Ownership Steering, has sparked debate among politicians over who will replace the minister.
On December 3 2019, Associated Press reported on the fifth and final point in Bruenig’s tweet — that Finland’s prime minister resigned as a direct consequence of the Posti/PAU strike:
Finland’s prime minister resigns over postal service dispute
HELSINKI (AP) — Finland’s prime minister resigned [December 3 2019] after a key coalition partner withdrew its support from his five-party government following a strike at the country’s postal service that spread to the national flag carrier Finnair.
A different outlet reported on the same day that the prime minister came under heavy criticism for actions early on in the controversy over the Posti pay cuts:
Antti Rinne, who only took office in June , has faced heavy criticism in recent days over how he and a fellow Social Democratic minister dealt with a two-week strike of the country’s state-owned postal service Posti in November .
Rinne, who used to be a trade union leader, and Sirpa Paatero were accused of giving inaccurate and contradictory information in the run-up to the strike, specifically over the transfer of work contracts for 700 Posti package handlers, which effectively would have led to lower pay. Paatero, a minister who was in charge of state-owned companies, resigned on [November 29 2019].
On a related note, Reuters’ November 24 2019 report on the then-unresolved strike in Finland noted a still larger strike could take place in December 2019; another article estimated 100,000 workers could strike that month:
Apart from the postal strike, there might be more widespread strikes on the way, potentially affecting other Finnish industries, as three other employee unions called at least 85,000 workers to join a three-day strike starting December 9  in separate wage disputes.
Bruenig’s tweet described a “fun series of events in Finland,” during which: 700 postal workers at Posti faced pay cuts, a coalition of workers numbering 60,000 joined the strike, Posti canceled the pay cut, the minister of state ownership resigned, and the Prime Minister of Finland resigned. By and large, those claims were both sequentially accurate and true. The initial number of workers affected (700) sounded small, but the FSU and AKT solidarity brought the number of possible striking workers to near 60,000. The pay cut was indeed canceled, and the two officials mentioned resigned in the aftermath.