Know your Rights

Historical Verdict Regarding Co-operation Negotiations Held at the University of Helsinki

The District Court of Helsinki ruled September 20. 2019 that the co-operation negotiations at the University of Helsinki did not comply with the articles 47 and 50 of the Act on Cooperation within Undertakings.

The co-operation negotiations took place during the Fall 2015, so it took almost four years for the plaintiffs to get a verdict from the District Court of Helsinki. Tiina Niklander and Seppo Sainio, who are the two chief shop-stewards from Juko at the Helsinki University, represented the employees in the negotiations. They also had a special backgroud team that consisted of a few lawyers from different trade unions to help them with the negotiations and especially with the transcripts that were kept during the negotiations.

Members of the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers (FUURT) and of the Trade Union of Education in Finland, OAJ contacted the trade unions after their employment relationships had been terminated due to the co-operation negotiations. The legality of the termination of the employment relationships and also the co-operation negotiation process were then evaluated by lawyers in both of the trade unions. In the end, five members wanted to take the termination of their employment relationships into court and also seek a ruling regarding the legality of the co-operation negotiations.

The basic legal question in the lawsuit was this: Did the university give the employees’ representatives sufficient and timely information to ensure a true negotiation and a true participation in the decision making process?

In its ruling, the court found that the university had not supplied the employees’ representaves with sufficient information for them to be able to discuss alternatives for the terminations of the employment relationships. The employees’ representatives should have been made aware of how the diminishing of the labor force would be allocated at the faculty level, not just how it will be allocated between the teaching and research staff and the other staff. Therefore the court found that the University of Helsinki was in breech with the articles 47 and 50 of the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings.

The District Court of Helsinki rewarded four of the five plaintiffs an indemnification of 6.000 euros and one of them 5.000 euros due to their shorter employment relationship with the university. The university was also obligated to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees, total of 35.000 euros. The verdict is not final and both parties may appeal.•

Article 47 Information provided by the employer

If the employer is considering to serve notice of termination, lay-off for over 90 days or reduce a contract of employment into a part-time contract of over ten employees he is to provide the representatives of the employees concerned with information, in writing, available to him:

  • 1. on the grounds for the intended measures;
  • 2. initial estimate of the amount of terminations, layoffs and reduction of contracts of employment into part-time contracts;
  • 3. report of the principles used to determine which employees shall be served notice of termination, laid-off or their contract of employment or reduced to a part-time contract; and
  • 4. time estimate for implementation of the said terminations, lay-offs and introduction of the said part-time contracts
  • Information provided for the representatives of the personnel groups has to be attached to the proposal for negotiations. Information obtained by the employer after the proposal has been made can be given at the latest in the meeting commencing the co-operation negotiations. If the employer is considering to serve notice of termination, lay-off or reduce a contract of employment into a part-time contract of under ten employees or lay-off of over ten employees for a period under 90 days he may provide the aforesaid information to the employees concerned or their representatives. The employer shall provide the information in writing on request of the employee or the representative of the personnel group concerned.

Article 50 Duty to negotiate

If the decisions relating to the business operations contemplated by the employer are indisputably estimated to result in termination of one or several employees’ contracts of employment or lay-off or reduction of the employment contract into a part-time contract, the grounds and effects thereof, principles or plans of action referred to in section 49, ways to limit the number of people affected by reductions and alleviation of the consequences of the reductions to the employees have to be handled in the co-operation negotiations, in the spirit of co-operation to obtain consensus.

text Mia Weckman
lawyer, The Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers

Painetussa lehdessä sivu 50