Threatened with a vote of no confidence in Parliament on Wednesday, Social Democratic Prime Minister Antti Rinne decided to withdraw on Tuesday, December 3, after what began as a social conflict in the postal sector.
Just a few days ago, there was no sign of the government crisis, which led to the resignation of the Finnish Prime Minister on Tuesday, December 3. Social Democrat Antti Rinne, who had been in office since 6 June at the head of a five-party coalition, and who no longer had the confidence of his main partner, the centrist party, finally decided to leave office to save the governing coalition.
At a mid-day press conference, the former trade union leader, who has led the Social Democratic Party since 2014, made no secret of his surprise: “Before last Friday, there was no indication that anyone in the government did not trust me as Prime Minister,” he noted. Everything went very fast.
On November 11, Finnish Post employees went on strike. In addition to demanding an improvement in their working conditions, as part of the renegotiation of collective agreements, they are protesting against the transfer of 700 employees, responsible for sorting and delivering packages, to a new regime, managed by a less favourable collective agreement.
According to the unions, these 700 employees are likely to see their salaries fall by an average of 30% from 2022 onwards. In exchange, they will receive a bonus, indexed to their productivity and customer satisfaction. On 25 November, the transport and aviation unions launched a solidarity strike, raising fears that the conflict would escalate. Finally, two days later, the social partners announced that they had reached an agreement.
Everything then seems to be on the verge of returning to normal. But MPs are demanding explanations from Prime Minister Antti Rinne. Before Parliament, he claims, as did his Minister of Public Administration, Sirpa Paatero, before him, that the management of the post office, a public company, “acted against the will of its shareholder”: his government is said to have formally opposed the deterioration of the working conditions of civil servants.
Bounce, Friday 29 November: in a press release, the Chairman of the Post Office’s Board of Directors, Markku Pohjola, asserts that the company was “in continuous dialogue” with the administration, and that at no time did the government express a “divergent opinion” on the fate of the 700 employees.
A few hours later, Antti Rinne convened a press conference and announced the resignation of Ms. Paatero. The head of government admits that his minister has not been clear enough, but he reiterates his criticism of the post office, insisting that he will not tolerate “shopping for collective agreements” and “wage dumping in public companies”.
Instead of putting an end to the controversy, these words relaunch it. Opposition members announce a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. The centrists, the main allies of the social democrats in the governing coalition, gave him the final blow on Monday, December 3. At the end of a party leadership meeting, their leader, Industry Minister Katri Kulmuni, said that her party still has “strong confidence in the coalition government and its programme”, but no longer in “its decision-making power”.
A Prime Minister deemed “too close to the unions”
For the politician Göran Djupsund, the centrists took advantage of the postal conflict “to get rid of a prime minister judged too left-wing and close to the unions”. After leading the government for four years, between 2015 and 2019, the Centre Party lost the parliamentary elections on 14 April, which were won by the Social Democrats (17.7%) ahead of the True Finns’ far-right party (17.5%). For lack of a majority on the right, the centrists finally decided to form a coalition under the leadership of Antti Rinne.
On Tuesday morning, it became clear that the Prime Minister would not survive the vote of no confidence, which was to take place the next day. He therefore preferred to throw in the towel and save the governing coalition. Neither the centrists nor the social democrats, at the bottom of the polls, have any interest in holding an early election.
Two candidates are evoked to succeed Antti Rinne: the vice-president of the party and minister of transport, Sanna Marin, aged 34, or the leader of the Social Democrats in Parliament, Antti Lindtman, aged 37, a representative of the right wing of the party, who would be in favour with the centrists.