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Helsinki (30.04.2019 - Heikki Jokinen) The Finnish Electrical Workers' Union filed an offence report asking Police to investigate measures taken by 20 companies during the union backed overtime ban in February and March last year.

According to the union companies maintaining the electrical grid delivered, during the overtime ban, 210 notices of emergency work to the authorities. This resulted in 2 400 hours of overtime work by more than 420 electricians.

This overtime work, the union says, was against the Working Hours Act. The law clearly stipulates that emergency work can only be used in exceptional cases, not to break legal industrial action.

What is emergency work for? "In exceptional conditions, the employer may require the employee to work in addition to the regular working hours and overtime. Emergency work can be required when an unexpected event interrupts or seriously threatens to interrupt regular operations or to put life, health or property at risk", is how the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment defines it.

Employer must immediately give notice of using emergency work to the occupational safety and health authority. This form must include a statement from the shop steward on whether emergency work is deemed necessary and correct. The regional agency then decides to accept or not to accept the work as emergency work.

The union has now studied carefully all the 210 announcements delivered to the authorities. Only a few of these fulfilled the legal criteria, the union discovered.

Normally authorities receive a small number of emergency work announcements in any given year. But now, during the seven-week overtime ban there were 210.

More than half of the overtime hours done were not accepted by the authorities. However, the companies registered normal overtime as emergency work regardless of whether their applications were accepted or rejected, the union says.

If the authorities reject the application, it is not sufficient penalty that the company must afterwards register the work they called emergency work as normal overtime, says Sauli Väntti, President of the Finnish Electrical Workers' Union.

"For such abuse of an important provision a real sanction must follow", he says.