The Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) demands that the punishments for unlawful industrial action be toughened notably.
EK reveals in a press release that roughly 6,500 of the employees of its member companies participated in a total of 71 instances of industrial action in 2016, most commonly in protest of lay-offs, management practices, re-organisation plans or personnel policy.
The strikes and lockouts resulted in a loss of approximately 6,600 working days, according to EK.
The number of both industrial conflicts and lost working days decreased notably from the previous year. EK, however, reminds that the decrease was largely a consequence of the massive demonstration held in protest of austerity measures and the strikes held in protest of collective bargaining talks in the postal sector in the second half of 2015.
Ilkka Oksala, the director of working life at EK, believes tougher punishments for unlawful industrial action would reduce the incidence of strikes in Finland.
“The number of working days lost due to industrial action remains notably high in Finland, when compared to Germany or Sweden, for instance. Between 2006 and 2015, Sweden lost an average of five working days a year due to industrial action, Germany an average of seven and Finland an average of 44 for every 1,000 employees,” he says, referring to statistics released by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research.
“We still have some catching up to do.”
EK also highlights that all but two of the 60 strikes faced by its member companies last year were unlawful.
One example of such a strike was the walkout organised by roughly a hundred train conductors and railway station service personnel between March and April. The Labour Court of Finland determined that the walkout was unlawful, as it was a protest against an existing collective bargaining agreement.
EK reminds that the one-day walkout inflicted losses of roughly one million euros and halted practically all long-distance rail services in Finland. Yet, it adds, the 14 trade union branches involved in the walkout were fined only for a total of 11,200 euros and the trade union for a total of 5,000 euros.
The high incidence of unlawful strikes stems from “fundamental problems” associated with the industrial peace system of Finland, according to EK.
“Even though a collective agreement should guarantee industrial peace, the low compensatory fines – of no more than a few thousand euros – imposed on trade union branches and/or trade unions make it possible to hold strikes even if a collective agreement is in place,” laments Oksala.
In Sweden, he adds, even individual employees may be deemed liable for compensatory damages for participating in unlawful strikes. “This has for its part limited the willingness to strike,” he views.
“We could easily improve the competitiveness of domestic businesses by reducing the number of unlawful industrial conflicts and the subsequent losses. The punishments handed down for unlawful industrial action must be toughened considerably in order to accomplish this,” concludes Oksala.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi