Metro and tram workers in Finland’s capital Helsinki went on a two-day work stoppage on Thursday, September 16, protesting the plan to convert the city-owned Helsinki City Transport (HKL) to a limited liability company and split it into two separate entities. HKL operates the metro, tram and the ferry systems in the city.
The Association of Tram and Metro Personnel (JHL) had given the call to protest the lack of transparency in the decision, and had raised concerns regarding the future of the HKL and their jobs. Earlier, the HKL board of directors had approved the corporatization of the company, and the Helsinki City Council will likely take the final decision on the plan on September 22.
Since the announcement of the plans, objections have been raised by workers, progressive political parties, residents associations etc. Earlier, HKL had converted its bus transport wing into a special company, Helsingin Bussiliikenne Oy, which was eventually acquired by a private Finnish bus company. Now, It has been announced that HKL will be converted into a limited liability enterprise to which the entire current HKL business, with the exception of the ownership and organizational responsibilities of the metro operations, will be transferred. HKL workers are concerned that this sort of a plan will lead to the splitting of various services and to the eventual privatization of the company.
Petri Lillqvist, chairman of the Association of Tram and Metro Personnel (JHL), told Tiedonantaja that “this process of conversion of HKL is not in the interests of Helsinki residents and privatization will not bring about some magical added value. And HKL is not in such a bad state that it needs to be converted into a limited liability company.”
The Helsinki Residents’ Network also opposes the conversion and splitting-up of the HKL. The network has stated that tram and metro services must be developed as a public service under the total ownership of the city authority. Activists from the Communist Party of Finland (SKP), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Left Alliance have expressed solidarity with the protesting workers of HKL.