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Collective Bargaining at the University Sector 2018 And the Historical Strike at the University of Helsinki

As discussed before, the main contracting organizations of the university sector are the Negotiation Organization for Public Sector Professionals JUKO, the Federation of Salaried Employees Pardia and the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL. The employer’s side was represented by the Association of Finnish Independent Education Employers (AFIEE).

The Employer party was not willing to discuss any other topics other than the renewal of the salary system until very late in the bargaining process. The Employees’ side wanted to also discuss salary raises, the status of the union representatives/shop-stewards and work safety representatives, the vast amount of employees working on fixed-term employment contracts and also definitions of contact teaching etc. The Employees wanted the renewal of the salary system to be done carefully and in cooperation. Therefore, the Employees suggested the salary system renewal to be moved in to a working group, which the Employer party refused.

The reluctance of the Employer party to genuinely negotiate finally led to a situation, where the negotiations were broken off and a notice for industrial action was given. The first wave of strikes was to hit the University of Helsinki as a targeted strike February 28. The National conciliator started to mediate the feud and gave his first conciliation proposal Tuesday February 27. The Employees’ side accepted the conciliation proposal, but the Employer party rejected it, thus resulting in a new notice for industrial action for March 7 in six universities and a strike at the University of Helsinki and different kinds of demonstrations throughout the universities all over Finland February 28. The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors, JHL, also pushed the Employer by giving a notice of sympathy strikes at the railways. The second wave of strikes was to hit six universities on Wednesday March 7. However, the national conciliator gave his second conciliation proposal March 6 and this time both parties accepted it. Therefore, all further industrial action was called off.

As an agreement was reached, a new collective agreement has been established for the university sector. The new collective agreement provides the university employees salary raises that are equivalent to the general level of 3,45%. The union representatives/ shop-stewards and work safety representatives receive a raise to their commissions. Also, the agreement includes several (total of 8) working groups including the salary system renewal working group, but also a working group considering ways to diminish the vast number of fixed-term contracts at the universities. The duration of the collective agreement is February 1.2018—March 31.2020.

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text Mia Weckman
lawyer, the Finnish union of university researchers and teachers

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