Helsinki (01.10.2021 - Heikki Jokinen) In September, the Metsä Group announced it would not abide by the court ruling in a case concerning terms of employment.
Needless to say, the unions were totally flabbergasted by this. In Finland, court decisions are sacrosanct and up until now have always been obeyed, both by unions and employers.
The background to the dispute is the infamous deal in 2016, when PM Juha Sipilä’s right-wing Government forced almost all trade unions to accept 24 unpaid annual extra working hours in their collective agreements.
However, senior salaried employees in the forest industry did not have a collective agreement. Employers fiercely oppose any collective bargaining for their senior salaried employees, so these do not exist in the forest industry.
By a unilateral decision, forestry employers added 24 annual working hours for the senior salaried employees. Unions belonging to the Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff YTN told companies that this is not possible: the decision of longer hours concerned only those covered by collective agreements.
The companies did not accept this, and the unions took the case to court. First the district court and then the court of appeal made the same decision: the forestry companies did wrong. The verdict is now final and legally binding.
And now comes the strange part: Metsä Group said it will not obey the court decision, not now, nor in the future. In another forestry company, which also does already have a legally binding verdict, the company simply did as the court decided.
But Metsä Group will not. It will not even try to appeal the verdict. A journalist asked the company whether or not Finnish law applies to the Metsä Group. The answer was that this is an internal issue for the company, concerning individual persons, and that they refuse to comment.
Petteri Oksa, the director of collective bargaining for the Union of Professional Engineers in Finland says on the YTN webpage that for his union the case is clear: losses must be compensated for those, who have been suffering due to an illegal action.
He hopes for a solution by negotiations. "If the company is not going to do this, luckily there are legal means in Finland to deal with the case", Oksa says.