Industrial actions and related readiness for action

Collective agreement negotiations and industrial actions

Collective agreements (also known as TES agreements) are concluded between the employee and employer unions to set out the terms and conditions of employment for a specific field. A collective agreement is always made for a definite period of time, usually for about two years. When the validity period of a collective agreement is approaching its end, the parties shall initiate negotiations on its continuation. In accordance with the principle of continual negotiations, the unions may also carry out negotiations throughout the validity of the agreement, for example, within various working groups.

The negotiations will, thus, not start from scratch for each round, but rather, the previously existing collective agreement is usually supplemented or revised. For the negotiations, both parties have their own objectives planned in advance. To compile their objectives, the employee unions gather information and views from the membership through surveys and discussion events, in working groups and by hearing the shop stewards at workplaces.

During the course of collective agreement negotiations, it is possible for the parties involved to take industrial actions, such as a strike, for the purposes of boosting the negotiations. Once the collective agreement has expired, both the employee and employer unions are allowed to take industrial actions in order to promote the interests of their membership.

The employees’ right to organise for and engage in industrial actions enjoys constitutional protection and is recognised in several international agreements. This right provides the unions with an adequate negotiating position and opportunity to succeed in bargaining for the terms and conditions of employment for their membership.

Civil servants and other public-sector officials have less freedom in taking industrial actions, for example, they are not allowed to engage in political strikes. Since 2010, the universities’ personnel have been employed in contractual employment relationships, so the regulations concerning civil servants and public-sector officials are no longer applicable to them.

When is a strike or other industrial action necessary?

If, despite efforts, the collective agreement negotiations are not advancing in the desired direction, it is time to consider a strike or other industrial action to provide support for the negotiators. This type of situation may arise, for example, if the employer party proposes such significant weakening to the employment terms that cannot be accepted by employees and, as a result, the negotiations become dead-locked. Then, it is crucial for the employee party to have the readiness and capacity to put pressure on the negotiations in order to reach a collective agreement with reasonable conditions. An industrial action signifies a shared vision and willingness, and by jointly taking an industrial action we can create enhanced assertiveness for our negotiators. If the employee unions lack sufficient negotiating power, the terms and conditions of employment will, in practice, be dictated by the employers.

An industrial action, such as a strike, is always a last-resort measure that should not be taken until it has become clear that the membership’s interests cannot be protected through negotiations. Going on strike is only considered once it appears that decent terms and conditions of employment cannot be safeguarded despite prolonged negotiations and other means available.

Industrial actions are intended to enhance the negotiating position of the employee party during collective agreement negotiations, to facilitate the improvement of the terms and conditions of employment and to prevent them from becoming significantly weakened. However, it must be borne in mind that the employer unions also can take corresponding industrial actions, such as a lockout, to boost the negotiations.

The FUURT member associations and their members can only go on strike jointly with other AKAVA affiliate unions. The negotiation organisations JUKO (Negotiation Organisation for Public Sector Professionals) and YTN (Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff) work in collaboration with their member unions to maintain strike readiness, and any decisions on a strike of AKAVA affiliate unions will be made within JUKO and YTN. FUURT has representatives on the decision-making bodies of both JUKO and YTN.

The permitted forms of industrial actions are not expressly specified in the legislation. However, based on case law and legal literature, any measures taken by the labour market parties to involve masses for effective exertion of pressure are viewed as industrial actions. The idea of involving masses means that an employee never goes on strike alone but always together with others. In support of the negotiations, it is also possible to arrange, for example, demonstrations, which are not deemed as actual industrial actions.

Readiness for industrial action refers simply to the unions’ and their members’ organisational and mental readiness to take industrial actions, including various types of strike, walkouts and demonstrations, in order to reach a collective agreement.

Industrial peace obligation

Industrial peace (or labour harmony) shall prevail throughout the validity period of the collective agreement. Industrial peace means that, during the validity of the collective agreement, the employees are committed to not taking any industrial action regarding their terms and conditions of employment. The employer and employee organisations and their members are bound by the collective agreement and the relevant industrial peace obligation. The industrial peace obligation is collective by nature and, thus, explicitly organisational.

The associations bound by the collective agreement are responsible for supervising that their members will not take any forbidden industrial actions (supervision obligation). In case of industrial peace violation or supervision failure, a compensatory fine can be imposed on the association.

The industrial peace obligation prevails until the end of the validity period of the collective agreement, so industrial actions can only be taken upon the end of the agreement, provided that no new agreement has been established by that point. A period with no collective agreement in force begins when the previous collective agreement ends and there is no new agreement. An illegal strike usually refers to a strike that violates the industrial peace obligation. Whether a strike is illegal or not will be decided by the Labour Court.

At the end of the day, collective agreement bargaining concerns the selling (wage-earners) and the buying (employers) of work input and industrial peace. The employees consent to maintain industrial peace in compensation for the minimum terms and conditions of employment safeguarded by the collective agreement. To achieve this, both parties shall commit to the jointly agreed terms and conditions of the collective agreement.

The continuing effect of a collective agreement

Sometimes it may take a while to negotiate on the continuation of a collective agreement. In these situations, the validity period of the previous collective agreement has already come to an end, but the negotiations of a new agreement have not yet been completed.

The continuing effect of the collective agreement means that the terms and conditions of employment as set out in the already ended collective agreement shall be applicable until a new collective agreement enters into force. The effect is dispositive by nature, in other words, the employee and employer are allowed to mutually agree on terms and conditions of employment that differ from the previous agreement. In such situations, if you are required to negotiate on the terms and conditions of your employment, it is wise to contact your union for advice. The provisions of the previous collective agreement shall be applicable unless otherwise agreed on the terms and conditions of employment. The industrial peace obligation is not observed during the continuing-effect period of the collective agreement.

Readiness for action in the university sector

For the purposes of supporting collective agreement negotiations, universities have their own local strike organisations including, for example, the local strike committee and appointed strike leaders at each university. The local strike organisation of a university is in charge of the practical arrangements for a possible strike, often in collaboration with the member unions of the trade union confederations SAK and STTK, such as Pro and JHL.

During the validity of the collective agreements, the strike leaders and organisations at the universities are trained for their duties by FUURT and the strike committee of the negotiation organisation JUKO. Strike activities are planned jointly by the JUKO strike committee and the local strike committees. While industrial peace prevails, any training and planning for strike activities shall take place outside of working hours.

The previous university-sector strike, which was the first ever in history, took place at the University of Helsinki in 2018, and a strike warning was issued at seven other universities as well.

FUURT plays an essential role in establishing readiness for action and organising industrial actions within the university sector.

If you wish to join the strike committee of your university, please contact Salla Viitanen (salla.viitanen@tieteentekijat.fi) for further information.

Readiness for action in other organisations

Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff YTN

The negotiation organisation YTN organises strike activities field-specifically. The special features of each field are considered in the planning of strike activities, and shop stewards or other elected representatives are involved in building local strike organisations. Support and guidance is provided by YTN. The local strike organisation is in charge of the practical arrangements for a possible strike, often in collaboration with the member unions of the trade union confederations SAK and STTK.

The YTN strike committee instructs and trains the local shop stewards and strike organisations for their tasks. While industrial peace prevails, any training and planning for strike activities shall take place outside of working hours.

FUURT is a member of the private-sector negotiation organisation YTN. Thus, all FUURT members working in the private sector fall within the sphere of the YTN shop steward activities.

More information is available on the YTN website:

YTN – Negotiations

The public sector

In addition to the universities, FUURT members are also employed by the State, municipalities, the Church and universities of applied sciences. Each sector has an industrial action organisation of its own. JUKO and FUURT provide their membership with information about possible industrial actions in these sectors.

Frequently asked questions:

What does being on strike mean for a union member?

These guidelines are primarily intended for our members working within the university and private sectors. If you are employed by a municipality, the Church or the State, there are certain specific features concerning strikes you need to take into consideration. Please contact the Union’s member services if you cannot find an answer to your question.

What does it mean to be on strike?

A strike means that you will temporarily stop working for a set period of time and, during that period, will not carry out those tasks that are included in the scope of the industrial action. It is the work tasks that are subject to a strike, not individual persons. Employees falling within the sphere of the strike have no obligation to work. During the strike, the employment relationship of the employee who is on strike and is, therefore, not working will remain in force, but no salary or wages will be paid by the employer. The unions will pay their members strike benefits during the strike.

The strike committees communicate clearly whom the strike concerns. The so-called strike restrictions determine which work and tasks fall within the scope of the strike. Each industrial action is independent and different. The union or member association communicates on the matters that concern the industrial action in question. It is essential for the members to closely follow the communications of their union.

A person who is on strike may be involved in actually organising the strike, or stay home for an extra day off or participate in events or demonstrations arranged by the unions. However, travelling is not recommended because the strike may end on short notice and employees have the obligation to be available for the employer immediately after the end of the strike.

You should not do the work of the strike days in advance. The pressuring power of a strike is based on the fact that the employer will have less work input at its use. You must not leave any work undone before the strike either. Please remember that even distance work is considered as being subject to strike so you should not do any distance work during the strike either. We would also like to remind you that you must not do any of the work of your colleagues who are on strike.

Who will decide on a strike?

Participation in a strike calls for a decision by the union board, in other words, it is a union political measure that is binding for the membership. As regards any strikes of the Akava affiliate unions, the decisions are made by the negotiation organisations JUKO and YTN. As a JUKO and YTN member, FUURT is involved in making strike decisions. The FUURT members are on strike together with the members of other JUKO or YTN unions and, in most cases, also in collaboration with various STTK or SAK unions.

What should I do to prepare for a strike?

As a Union member, you should check that your contact details in the FUURT membership register are up to date (workplace, phone number, personal e-mail address). It is easy to update the contact details through E-services. In strike situations, we use the personal e-mail addresses for membership communications, so please make sure that your contact details include your personal e-mail address.

You should also check that all your membership fees have been duly paid. It is a prerequisite for the payment of strike benefits.

During the negotiation round, follow actively the FUURT communications in the membership letters, on our website and in the social media. If necessary, contact your member association or the FUURT office for more information.

What is a strike benefit?

A strike benefit refers to a daily compensation paid by the unions to their members for their earnings lost due to the strike. The employer will not pay salary or wages for the strike days, but union members can apply for strike benefits for these days. To be entitled to a strike benefit, you must be on strike for its entire duration. The strike benefit is applied for by using the relevant union’s strike benefit form. The benefit will be paid to the members participating in the strike to compensate for their actual loss of earnings. In other words, you cannot apply for a strike benefit if you are, for example, on study leave or parental leave from your work because there will not be any actual loss of earnings due to the strike.

For each negotiation round, the FUURT Board decides on the strike benefits to be paid and the relevant amounts. FUURT members are working in a variety of jobs covered by different collective agreements, and the Union pays strike benefits for members working within the university and private sectors alike. The strike benefit is of equal size for all members.

Strike benefits are paid by FUURT only to those individuals who have been Union members prior to the start of the strike and whose membership fees have been paid as required. The FUURT Board will decide on detailed guidelines.

Of the strike benefit paid by a trade union, 16 euros per day is exempt from taxation (Income Tax Law, TVL, Section 88). Any portion exceeding this sum is subject to taxation as earned income. The payer of the benefit shall deduct the withdrawal tax from the taxable share of the strike benefit; the amount of the tax depends on the amount of the strike benefit.

Do I have to take part in the strike?

Every union member who is working in tasks that fall within the scope of the strike is obligated to comply with the union’s decision and take part once the union has made a decision on a strike or other industrial action.

For the collective agreement negotiations to succeed, it is extremely important that each and every member contributes actively to the attainment of shared objectives. The terms and conditions of employment, including pay rises and other benefits for the coming years, are at stake for all employees covered by the collective agreement. Industrial action is taken only in situations where it is deemed necessary.

If you fall within the sphere of the strike and continue to carry out work that is subject to the strike, you are breaking the strike. Any person who acts against the union’s decisions during an industrial action can be expelled from the association’s membership.

What if I’m being pressured at my workplace not to go on strike?

The employer must not exert any type of pressure on employees taking part in a strike organised by an employee union. It is not possible for the employer to forbid employees from going on strike. Nor can the employer ask the employees if they intend to go on strike or collect any related information. Any such attempts must be immediately reported to FUURT and the local strike organisation.

Do I have to inform my employer if I go on strike?

Notifications concerning any industrial actions are issued by the unions to the employers in a centralised manner. Individual FUURT members are not obligated to inform their employers in advance about their participation in the strike.

What do industrial actions mean for grant recipients?

Those working on a personal research grant are not in an employment relationship and, thus, are not covered by any collective agreement. Industrial actions, however, usually bear significance for them as well, because it is typical for researchers to work alternately for periods with grant funding or in employment relationships. Therefore, it is worthwhile for grant researchers to show commitment in order to improve the terms and conditions of scientific research.

It is recommended to decline from doing any work that falls within the scope of the strike. In addition, we encourage that researchers working on a grant carry out their work outside of the facilities of the university during the strike days. Grant recipients are also invited, if they wish, to contribute to communicating about the strike and welcome to take part in possible demonstrations.

No strike benefit can be paid to grant recipients, because they will not incur any loss of earnings due to a strike.

How should non-unionised employees act during a strike?

A non-unionised employee who is not a member of any union may take part in the strike without any sanctions or consequences from the employer. As a strike is always targeted at specific work tasks, participation is motivated regardless of unionisation. The outcomes of the strike will benefit all employees, including the non-unionised, and especially in any fields covered by a universally binding collective agreement, such as the university sector.

Strike benefits will, however, be paid to union members only.

If I go on strike, will there be consequences for me?

From an employee’s viewpoint, a strike organised by a trade union is always legal, so you will not do anything unlawful if you take part in a strike arranged by your union. Possible consequences from illegal strikes or industrial actions are always targeted at the particular trade union or its member association.

When making a decision on an industrial action, the relevant organisation (for example, JUKO) will assume full responsibility for the industrial action and related consequences. The responsibility cannot be delegated to an individual member. When an employee takes part in an industrial action as intended by the decision made by the organisation, the employer cannot impose any sanctions on the employee. This holds true regardless of whether the industrial action is legal or illegal according to the Act on collective agreements.

The employer has no right to give notice or cancel the employment relationship on the basis of a legal strike. The employer must not discriminate against any employee for taking part in a strike.

Legal or illegal strike?

A strike is unlawful if it is judged illegal by the Labour Court. The parties may present advance statements concerning the legality of an industrial action, but such statements are usually to be viewed simply as their own, possibly purposeful, opinions. The Labour Court will always have the final word concerning legality.

From the viewpoint of an individual employee, a strike is legal when it is implemented by an association or a union. Any consequences regarding the legality of the strike will be borne by the responsible organisation and no individual employee can be ordered to pay a compensatory fine due to participation in an illegal strike.

Are there no means to boost the negotiations other than a strike?

A strike is always the last resort to advance negotiations, and the threshold for making a decision on a strike is high. In other words, if a decision on industrial actions is deemed necessary, all other means available have already been tried. Industrial actions are only taken when they are necessary.

What about demonstrations?

In addition to or instead of a traditional strike, it is also possible to arrange demonstrations or social media campaigns to boost the negotiations. Demonstrations arranged outside of the working hours, without causing a stop or interruption of the work, are not considered as actual industrial actions. Any demonstrations are implemented in a centralised and co-operative manner by the unions. All members as well as other persons working in the field are encouraged to take part in actions to support the negotiations as instructed by the unions!