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JUHANI ARTTO
HOMEPAGE 2013

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TRADE UNION NEWS
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End of the line for a number of traditional industrial sectors

Helsinki (15.02.2010 - Juhani Artto) In several traditional industrial sectors the year 2009 was a sad year in Finland, as businesses ceased production and (almost certainly) closed their doors for the last time. That was the fate of manufacturers of men's suits, rubber boots, glass bottles and flat glass. All had been produced in Finland for generations.

The last factory to produce men's suits was recently closed down in Kuopio, although hundreds of thousands of men's suits are bought annually in Finland. The factory, belonging to Turo Tailor, established in 1938, was competitive in quality and by other criteria but not when it came to production costs.

Shop steward Erja-Riitta Jokinen and Leena Savolainen, a long time employee at the factory, ask consumers to stop and think about the factors that make foreign suits so price competitive. Both were recently interviewed by Intiim, the trade union magazine of TEAM. TEAM is the union that organises textile and garment workers. Those cheap suits may have been made by "slave labour" in China, they suggest.

Jokinen and Savolainen also wonder about the attitude of the present and past Finnish governments. The garment industry has been on the downward slide for decades now but governments have not tried to mitigate or stop this negative development, they say, reminding us that several other industrial sectors have been given public support.

In the 1970s, the textile and garment industries had almost 65,000 employees. Now the figure is down to about 7,500.

And how did Raimo Kinnunen, the vice CEO of Turo Tailor, reply when asked by Tuomo Lilja, the editor of Intiim, whether it might be possible to restart, sometime in the future in Finland, the industrial production of men's suits?

"I even do not wish it", Kinnunen said. "If production were to start up again sometime it would mean that Finnish people had become so impoverished that  wages and salaries would have dropped to a level that would make  production profitable."

"What a shocking indictment. It is difficult to approve it", was the comment of Intiim's editor Lilja in the piece.