HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finland’s five-party coalition government is embroiled in an internal dispute over the rights of Finnish nurses to go on strike at several intensive care units (ICUs) while the Nordic country struggles with a severe lack of healthcare personnel.
One of the coalition allies, the Left Alliance, is against emergency legislation that the government took to parliament late on Tuesday to prevent the strikes, which hospitals have said will put patients’ lives at risk.
The Left Alliance’s deputy chairman, Jussi Saramo, said it was too early for his party to consider leaving the government, with parliament debating the bill on Wednesday.
Saramo’s party refuses to vote for the bill in its current form, he told Finnish newspaper Iltalehti.
“Of course there is now all kinds of speculation over what will happen, having said in public that we cannot support this version (of the bill),” Saramo was quoted as saying.
“We seek an outcome that everyone can endorse.”
Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Wednesday said she expected all government allies to vote in line with the proposal.
“The government, for its part, has taken to parliament legislation that aims at ensuring people’s lives aren’t endangered during union action,” she told reporters.
Finnish nursing unions have been in a wage dispute with public employers since January, threatening mass resignations and, more recently, ICU strikes if their demands are not met.
The first ICU strike is scheduled to begin on Sept. 19.
Meanwhile, public broadcaster YLE reported that Helsinki’s district court on Wednesday issued a temporary strike ban at the request of hospital districts targeted for strike action.
(Reporting by Anne Kauranen and Essi Lehto; Editing by David Goodman)