Helsinki (25.06.2015 - Heikki Jokinen) The Helsinki Court of Appeal has ruled that the so-called collective agreement which was concocted by employers for those employed distributing unaddressed mail and free-sheet newspapers is not legally valid.

The case is unique in Finland. From the end of 2009 there has been a collective agreement in place of a generally binding character in this field of work. Employers were unhappy with it and decided to set up their own ‘trade union’ Suomen Mainosjakajien Etujärjestö SME.

The new organisation was not doing anything bona fide trade unions do. It has no office, no staff, no unemployment fund and no shop stewards. It has no activities other than agreeing on terms of work with employers.

The board of this ”union” was composed of various directors from the major employer in this sector, Janton Corporation. In no time at all, this bogus organisation had made its own ”collective agreement” with the employers. Which means in practise with the Janton Corporation.

According to the Finnish Post and Logistics Union PAU this ‘new agreement’ cut the real rate of pay to the level of 2 -3 euro per hour. This is clearly below the valid collective agreement.

Tracks disappear in tax haven

Last year the Helsinki District Court made a surprising ruling, which accepted that the SME is genuinely representing employees. Now the Helsinki Court of Appeal has overturned this decision completely: SME cannot be seen as a representative trade union with a right to make collective agreements.

The companies involved must now abide by the collective agreement made with the Finnish Post and Logistics Union PAU. It has a minimum salary of approximately eight euro per hour.

Janton Corporation says the decision will lead to the disappearance of 14 000 jobs and an end to the businesses of some 60 companies. It will seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

PAU chairperson Heidi Nieminen is quick to dismiss these figures. She says that according to her own findings Janton Corporation is making a hefty profit.

However, it has been difficult to establish exact details as to the real profits of the company. The owner of Janton Corporation, the private equity fund Argan Capital has its headquarters in London but is registered in Jersey. All attempts to track its activities and bookkeeping disappear in the tax haven.

In 2007 - 2011 the Janton Concern recorded a profit of 33 million euro in Finland, from which it paid out only three per cent in tax. The corporate tax level in Finland at that time was 26 per cent.

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Yellow union legalised in a surprise decision by district court (13.02.2014)