Non-verbal Agreements Are Falling Through
Society is controlled by many statutes, but communal life
is also based on many practices that have been found to be
good. They are based on a common idea and mutual trust.
For instance at the airport, we can trust that everyone will
only take their own bag from the baggage claim belt. No
commitments need to be signed for this, nor are guards hired to stand
next to the belts.
A non-verbal agreement is even more reliable than an agreement,
because it is based on every party's will to act in a particular way. But
we are living in a time of change. As the operational environment
changes, many customary courses of action are being re-evaluated.
University staff has viewed the parliament as a defender of education
and knowledge. But now, from that very direction, universities
are being damaged, even permanently. Education and research have
percolated as targets of major cuts.
One axiom in Finland has been that employers' and employees' organizations
are the ones who make agreements about working conditions
(though this is also supported by international labour legislation). The
decision-makers have calculated it differently. Cutting salaries by 5
% is more valuable than trust capital. It seems that even mathematics
can be interpreted in different ways.
At workplaces, the starting point is that the employer commits to
its employees. The University of Turku has been one of the few that
truly set two choices for cooperation negotiations. It chose to preserve
jobs. The employees surely value this, even though the pressure to save puts everyone through the hoops.
The atmosphere in universities is widely melancholic.
Election promises have been broken. Announcements
about cooperation negotiations are being
made constantly, a close colleague is sent packing.
Those who are left are dealing with an even larger
workload just with their basic tasks. They also always
have to implement new reforms. At the same time,
the menace that new cooperation negotiations might
begin is upon them.
The government could still think about what it is
doing to universities. Economic disciplining sends the
message that they do not really believe that solutions
can be found in that particular direction. What, then,
might be the significance of knowledge, education
Universities will not become innovation factories.
Productization, commercialization and marketing
are not the core of their operations. Companies do
that. Surely there is not a prevailing misunderstanding
about the essence of universities? That would take
away the basis of the entire operations.
The Ministry of Education and Culture's suggestion
for the funding model in 2017-2020 states
that the income of the public economy would not be
enough to fund the current expenses even under normal
economic and employment situation development.
I guess we, at universities, can vouch that cuts
have been made.
Universities are expected to make even stronger
strategic choices and to cooperate. National distribution
of work (profiling) is expected to lead to efficiency
and to improve quality.
Does the profiling mean a new round of cooperation
negotiations that aims at cutting jobs? There has
not been a signal that universities would commit to
preserving jobs together.
Now we need messages that help people cope, be inspired
and trust. An inspired staff will certainly rise
up to challenges. This point of view could also be taken
into account as a part of decision-making.
Implementing the profiling in such a way that jobs
are preserved would be a course of action that generates
trust. A suitable way of implementing this would
be a long-term recruitment strategy that is based on
focus areas, instead of doing everything at once. The
focus should also be turned towards quality issues in
the everyday life at universities: as a result of the savings,
many teachers are losing their research time altogether.
Chair, The Union for University Teachers and Researchers in Finland, YLL
- Painetussa lehdessä sivu 36