Minister of Employment Haatainen: Cooperation is the key to ensuring security of supply
“Normally issues concerning the security of supply would not be of general public interest but now, unfortunately, the situation is quite different. The coronavirus outbreak has shown that our security of supply system is both functional and, in European terms, unique,” said Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen in a briefing on the coronavirus situation organised by the Government on 27 March 2020.
“Our system is based on a networked organisation that follows the principle of public private partnership to maintain and build the security of supply. It is a modern and cost-effective way of managing risks related to the security of supply in society,” Haatainen noted.
Haatainen expressed her thanks to the National Emergency Supply Agency and the various business organisations that have worked together and practised for situations like this for years.
No disruptions in the supply of daily consumer goods, no need for hoarding
Minister Haatainen emphasised that daily consumer goods are available normally throughout Finland. Deliveries are made to retail stores, and the availability of products remains good. When the crisis broke out, there were temporary shortages of certain products in some stores due to hoarding.
“It seems that customers are no longer hoarding, which is exactly how things should be. There is no need to hoard daily consumer goods, because there will be no shortage of products,” Minister Haatainen pointed out.
No disruptions in energy supply, energy market functions normally, prices are low
“Efficient and reliable energy supply is vital for the functioning of society, for instance in sectors such as health care, transport and communications,” Minister Haatainen stressed.
Security of supply depends on a continuous balance of supply and demand. In case of a power outage, many basic functions of society will stop immediately or with a short delay.
“At the moment, the energy market is functioning normally – there are no problems with the availability of electricity, heat or fuels. As a result of the economic slowdown, the prices of electricity and emission allowances have fallen. Similarly, the global market price of crude oil is currently low,” Minister Haatainen pointed out.
She also emphasised that the emergency stocks in Finland have enough energy raw material to last for months. Compulsory reserves and security stocks are controlled by the National Emergency Supply Agency, which is also responsible for state emergency stockpiling.
Replenishment and sufficiency of emergency stocks - medical supplies and personal protective equipment
The National Emergency Supply Agency keeps a stock of products and materials necessary for the functioning of society. On 23 March 2020, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health decided that the current emergency conditions can be considered a sufficient reason to take into use the medical supplies and personal protective equipment from the state emergency stocks.
With these measures, the state wants to ensure adequate supply of personal protective equipment to health care and social welfare professionals throughout the country if the epidemic worsens.
Protective equipment primarily means personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care personnel caring for patients with confirmed or possible infection, such as face masks, respiratory protective devices, surgical masks and medical gowns.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is monitoring the consumption of PPE together with the National Emergency Supply Agency and the university hospital districts. Measures taken to ensure the sufficiency of PPE include stricter guidance and control of the use of protective equipment.
“Based on a request from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the National Emergency Supply Agency took steps several weeks ago to procure new personal protective equipment. Availability problems caused by the understandably high demand of these products have slowed down the procurement process to some extent. It seems that the market is now opening up and the procurement process can move forward,” Haatainen said.
The Government has decided that Finland will join the Joint Procurement Agreement to procure medical countermeasures, an agreement concluded between the EU Member States and the European Commission, as soon as possible. The agreement provides means of implementing joint procurement of equipment, active pharmaceutical ingredients and other medical countermeasures.
Ministries work together to address the availability of foreign workforce
“The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment has received countless inquiries from concerned employers on the availability of foreign labour force. We share this concern, and will do everything in our power to find solutions”, Minister of Employment Haatainen assured.
Last week, the Government decided to restrict cross-border traffic to Finland until 13 April. Only essential travel to work or other necessary traffic to Finland is allowed.
“We will make sure that persons indispensable for the security of supply will be allowed in Finland, but it is clear that in the current situation the possibilities for large-scale labour migration are very limited,” Haatainen notes.
The restrictions of various countries on entering and leaving the country pose an additional challenge. Finnish missions abroad focus on the repatriation of Finns, and do not currently process applications for residence permits or visas.
“Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä and I are very aware of the acute problems Finnish farms are faced with. Although it is clear that the ongoing operation of farms that are essential for our national food security and security of supply will be safeguarded, it is very likely that the number of seasonal workers entering the country will be significantly smaller than in normal conditions.”
Various authorities, under the leadership of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, are seeking solutions to the labour migration issue. The working group meets every day with the objective of ensuring essential work-related travel and other necessary traffic into Finland in these emergency conditions.
“We are looking into different ways of supplying domestic labour force to sectors suffering from labour shortage. In addition, we are preparing exceptions to legislation that would permit flexible use of foreign labour already in the country during the state of emergency. As far as seasonal workers are concerned, it is particularly important that those allowed in the country can change employers during the harvest season,” Haatainen concludes.
Timo Nevaranta, Special Adviser to the Minister of Employment, tel. +358 29 504 7232
Henri Backman, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 29 506 3581 (economic security of supply)
Sonja Hämäläinen, Migration Director, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 29 504 7112