Universities’ collective agreement negotiations begin February 7

The current universities’ collective agreement expires March 31, 2020. Similarly, industrial peace continues until the end of March.

Universities’ general collective agreement expires March 31, 2020 and negotiations for a new agreement begin February 7. The Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers (FUURT) is represented in the negotiations by JUKO (Negotiation Organisation for Public Sector Professionals), and our own main negotiator in the process is a long-time FUURT lawyer Mia Weckman. Other employee representatives in the negotiations are Trade Union Pro and the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL. The employer side is represented by the Finnish Education Employers (FEE).

Weckman says the negotiations begin in good spirit. All agree with the common goal to make universities great places to work, as the current government programme states.

Although the current general collective agreement expires by the end of March, the conditions of the agreement will be followed until a new agreement is found. This includes also the extra working hours, so-called kiky-hours in Finnish. JUKO has, however, stated that it wants the extra hours out from all future collective agreements it negotiates.

More about the negotiation goals will be published later as the negotiations begin.

FUURT will inform its members about the ongoing collective agreement negotiations via membership newsletters, FUURT website and social media.

Collective agreements have a long history in Finland

The collective bargaining system has a long history in Finland. Both the employee and employer side are highly organised. Currently some 59 % of all workforce in Finland has a union membership, while the collective agreements set the working conditions for almost 90 % of the workforce.

If new agreement is not found until an old collective agreement expires, the period of industrial peace ends. This is the time for potential industrial action, and we have already seen several strikes in different sectors during this round of negotiations. In forestry, the employer side has also announced a lockout.

The atmosphere during this negotiation round is reported as especially sour because of the 2016 competitiveness pact (kilpailukyky or kiky-sopimus in Finnish) between Juha Sipilä’s government, employers’ representatives and trade unions. Now the conversation has focused especially on the extra working hours introduced by the 2016 pact that increased annual working hours with 24 hours without compensation. Many unions have now set the goal to exclude these hours from the next collective agreement.

Grant researchers’ rights are discussed separately

It is good to keep in mind that the collective agreement negotiations focus only on working conditions and salaries in employment. Although grant researchers’ rights cannot thus be negotiated in this process,

FUURT is very active in advocating grant researchers’ rights in other discussions with e.g. universities, foundations, Mela and government authorities.

Want to learn more about the collective bargaining system in Finland? Listen to this YLE podcast: https://areena.yle.fi/1-50392523