Kirsti Sintonen, the communications manager of FUURT, reflects on the spring negotiation round for a new collective bargaining agreement in a blog post published at Jytte’s blog. The new general collective agreement, released to the public on 27 March, will guarantee industrial peace for another two years.
University workers have a new two-year general collective agreement. Because of the coronavirus situation, the negotiations were concluded ahead of schedule and before the existing agreement expired. A deal was reached late on Sunday 22 March with details of the agreement released to the public on 27 March after the formal approval of both parties. The existing agreement was due to expire on 31 March. For this round, the university sector had the honour of fronting JUKO, the Negotiation Organisation for Public Sector Professionals.
The negotiators rose to the challenge presented by the unusual circumstances. Although the coronavirus epidemic closed the universities, university workers will continue to work remotely with teaching and research conducted at home offices. Seeing the negotiations through was therefore essential. The new general collective agreement will guarantee industrial peace for another two years.
In all fairness, FEE, the Finnish Education Employers, increasingly took responsibility as the events progressed. Although the negotiations were tough and did not lack drama, the result should be deemed satisfying by all parties, considering the difficulty of the situation.
This round of negotiations was nothing like the previous one. In the winter of 2018, no deal was found by the deadline and the help of conciliator general was required. When the employer rejected the first proposal for conciliation, the employees went on strike. The employees of the University of Helsinki were on strike for one day on 28 Feb 2018, the Kalevala Day. Demonstrations in support of the strike were organised in all university towns. The spirit of We Are the University 2.0 warmed us up on the coldest day of the winter.
The organisational readiness shown by the university workers in February and March 2018 was still fresh in the employer’s memory. The representatives of the employees wore We Are the University 3.0 badges on the very first day of the negotiations. Social media channels were used to disseminate pictures explaining the goals of the university workers. Strike organizers were trained and together with other activists they wrote blog posts for the union. Although these may seem like token gestures, it is well known that employers keep a close eye on the organizations’ social media channels. Effectiveness is built through small acts and communality.
Two years pass remarkably quickly. Within a year’s time, FUURT and other unions will start cooking up new means of influencing. This spring, remote working should be made visible. You can use social media to post pictures of your home office with the hashtag #etäyliopisto. We are happy to share these through our social media channels. Finally, it is worth noting the importance of self-care under these exceptional circumstances. Remote working tends to make it even more difficult to distinguish between work and free time.
Communications Manager, FUURT