Know your rights

Trade unions are the best security against turbulent times
There have been over 25 co-operation proceedings at the universities during the last couple of years.

These proceedings have led to hundreds of lost jobs and, also employment relationships changed into part-time jobs. There have also been a lot of changes due to administrative and other reorganizations. Uncertainty has become an unfortunate part of the university employees’ lives.

The trade unions have helped their members in different ways before, during and after the co-operation proceedings. Unions have supported the local shop stewards in their efforts in negotiating with the universities. The lawyer and other representatives from the trade union have participated in different meetings and seminars with the employees and educated them about their rights in the current situations. Also, we have asked the Unemployment Funds to participate and educate the members about the unemployment details.

Trade unions have revised the cases that have been brought to their attention and given legal advice and evaluation of the situation. We have helped and advised especially those, whose employment contracts have been terminated due to collective reasons, such as financial or re-organizational reasons. Some members have decided to take their termination cases to court and the trade unions have provided legal insurance to those members to cover the legal costs. However, considering how many employees have been let go by the universities, the number of matters proceeding to court is quite small. This may be due to researchers’ and teachers’ willingness to still seek work at the universities and possible worries about finding new work in case of suing the university. However, a small number of cases have gone further and I will inform you later more about those, once we have the courts’ decisions available.

Also, some letters and requests have been drafted to the universities to question their practices about the mandatory re-employment responsibilities. It seems that the universities sometimes neglect to make sure that they re-employ previously terminated employees before hiring new employees. In some cases, it seems that some of the work descriptions have been intentionally altered so that the work no longer quite resembles the previous work, so that the work no longer could be available for a previously terminated employee, which of course is bad practice. Now that the re-employment period has diminished from nine months to three months the obligation has unfortunately lost a lot of its relevance.

Trade unions have helped their members find new employment by organizing seminars and courses, for example CV clinics. Different unions may have different career services or training possibilities for example how to look and apply for work.

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

Painetussa lehdessä sivu 42