Finnish teachers in both schools and kindergartens were among those taking part in massive protests last Friday against new labour laws. The new measures would see holiday and sick pay cut as well cuts to overtime compensation, and were decided unilaterally by the government. Unions say the measures would have the worst effects on those who are weakest - in particular women part time workers. They would also result in a 4% - 6% cut in pay, say union leaders. As well as the teachers, transport and health workers were amongst those joining the protest.

Although Finnish teachers are not allowed by law to attend political demonstrations, their union says it will pay any fines imposed on them. So teachers travelled to Helsinki for the mass protest, which meant that many schools were closed. 

The right wing coalition government has already shown its colours in being one of the most vocal opponents of any relief for Greek debt, and the Finns Party, which is a part of the coalition, is also vehemently opposed to accepting some of the thousands of refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Africa. 

The Finnish education system has largely escaped the malign effects of global education reform (GERM), since enlightened policies pursued since the 1980s have enabled it to shine even in terms of the flawed PISA process, which creates league tables of countries to compare their education systems based on a standardised testing system. However central to GERM is the assault on unions and cuts in education budgets and as these events show, Finland is not immune to those attacks. The main protectors of Finnish public education will be teachers, their unions, students and local communities. It is to be hoped that all those who laud the education system will support teaching unions as they fight the cuts and attacks on labour rights.

To express your suport for the Finnish teachers and other labour unions go here.