Helsinki (31.01.2020 - Heikki Jokinen) The long and complicated electricians strike took a step towards a solution. The Board of the Finnish Electrical Workers' Union accepted on 30 January company level agreements with Konecranes and Valmet Automotive.
The electricians strike began on 5 December and has continued ever since. Industrial action is still ongoing at seven companies, like the Meyer dockyard, the Boliden zink factory, SSAB steel factories and the Outokumpu steel factory.
The core issue is union member’s right to their own shop steward. In 2017, the Industrial Union and Technology Industries included the industry electricians terms of work in their collective agreement. The Finnish Electrical Workers' Union then lost their own collective agreement in respect of some one thousand union members in the industry.
Due to that, a separate agreement of the electricians representatives on the working places was made. The agreement ended in November 2019 and was not continued. The union saw the situation as an employers' attack against the actual existence of the union.
Sauli Väntti, the Union President stresses that the point of departure in the strike was that the union members had no right to a representative at working places. The solution reached now gives them the right to elect their own representative and thereby have influence at their own working place.
"The solution also creates a good basis for cooperation in the companies for the members of the Finnish Electrical Workers' Union and the Industrial Union", Väntti says.
Väntti hopes that the other companies involved in the strike are willing to make similar agreements without further delay. "This way we can return back to normal and end the industrial disputes."
On a trade and an industry basis
One reason for the long-time dispute is organisational: the Finnish Electrical Workers' Union recruits members both on a trade and an industry basis. This is unusual in the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK, of which the union is a member.
Below is a link for a Trade Union News from Finland article from 2001 explaining the background. Lauri Lyly, the then President of the Union, later became President of SAK.
One of the Union’s 12 collective agreements is for electricians at paper and pulp mills. The employers have chosen to take a hard line, the Finnish Forest Industries announced on 27 January that it will not conduct negotiations on a new collective agreement - before these even began.
At the same time the employers announced a lockout of electricians at 20 companies at first from 10 -13 February and then decided to extend it until 17 February. As a countermeasure, the Union will launch a strike from 13 - 17 february at some 70 working places.
Union asks Police to investigate 20 companies that tried to break industrial action by means of emergency work (30.04.2019)
An exception in SAK: The Electrical Workers' Union organises employees both on a trade and an industry basis (05.03.2001)