Stretchy space and brittle labour relations

When visitors arrive in Helsinki these days they’re most likely to arrive by air. They land at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Very near is Helsingin Pitäjän Kirkonkylä, an idyllic village-scape (sorry about the word, suggestions for alternatives very welcome), with a church so pretty and atmospheric, not to mention old that it’s one of the metropolitan region’s favourite wedding venues. But passengers on their way into Helsinki city centre might see something like this.

Jumbo Vantaa

(Photo by Esko Lius on flickr).

Or like this.


Perhaps this is why Helsinki’s mayor (Ylipormestari) Jussi Pajunen has, as reported in Monday’s Helsingin Sanomat, been rather forthright in what he thinks of this scene. It’s the shopping centre Jumbo, where he was taken on his tour of Vantaa, the “third” of the municipalities that make up Helsinki’s metropolitan area (Espoo is number 2).

Why? Because there has been a lot of talk of combining Helsinki and Vantaa recently and people are rightly interested in what the movers and shakers of urban politics think. Pajunen does seem to like monumental buildings/architecture when it’s in Helsinki’s city centre, but he definitely doesn’t like Jumbo and HS implies that he doesn’t think much of the rest of Vantaa either. All planned and built for cars, plastic christmas trees and people who enjoy fake swimming places. Yeuch!

Vantaa politicians and many others have rushed to condemn his judgemental and snobbish comments, not to mention his understanding of municipal finance. Millions, he had reportedly said, would be saved by adding Vantaa to Helsinki (as in, unifying Helsinki and Vantaa will really mean H:ki swallowing up Vantaa). Others are unclear as to where, exactly, and how, exactly, these savings would be made. But Pajunen isn’t exactly the first municipal politician to confuse running cities with running a business. On which topic, more later. Maybe.

Down the road from the offending Jumbo Finnair pilots are on strike less over money than over labour conditions or relations. It sounds quite complicated but there seems to be little sympathy for the striking pilots. On his blog Ppusa writes that he would like to see them reach an agreement so the pilots could all go back to work soon. “Sack them all”, screamed an economics professor in Uusi Suomi.

Well, it’s true that Finland and particularly its “economy” are totally dependent these days on air travel. Increasing speed is what made the world small and brought Helsinki “close” to London, after all. And what made that part of Vantaa the eyesore that it is today. And worsened carbon emmissions. It IS all a bit complicated.


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