The employers in the Finnish paper industry have submitted three investigation requests to the police related to last spring’s labour conflict.
“What we are seeking is that a court set a precedent to clarify the law, common rules of the game as well as compliance with obligations relating to industrial peace. During last spring’s labour conflict, notice of several industrial actions was not given 14 days in advance, although the law requires that this be done. In order to add clarity to procedures, it is necessary to ascertain whether the parties who issued strike notice or decided to take strike action have been in breach of the Act on Mediation in Labour Disputes,” says Arto Tähtinen, the Senior Vice President responsible for labour market policy at the Finnish Forest Industries Federation, which represents the employers. Under the Act, failure to comply with the obligation to give notice of a work stoppage can be punishable by a fine.
Requests for investigations have been submitted only with respect to strikes of which a chief shop steward or union branch gave clear notice. Steps have not yet been taken to ascertain the legality of other strikes or walkouts.
Between the beginning of April and the middle of May 2005, in the course of the overtime ban declared by the Finnish Paper Workers’ Union, branches of the union organised about 220 illegal strikes. The overtime ban also caused paper machines to be shut down and restarted about the same number of times.
Strike action contrary to the Act on Mediation in Labour Disputes is categorised under Finnish law as an offence involving injured parties. The injured parties in this instance are the Finnish Forest Industries Federation’s member companies, at whose facilities the illegal strikes were carried out.
The last time employers in the Finnish paper industry requested investigations of illegal strikes was in 1995. On that occasion, however, the Finnish Forest Industries Federation and the Finnish Paper Worker’s Union reached agreement concerning compliance with the obligation to give notice of a strike and the criminal investigations were terminated after the Finnish Paper Workers’ Union had promised to ensure compliance with the Act.
Arto Tähtinen, Senior Vice President, Labour Market Policy, Finnish Forest Industries Federation, tel. + 358 (0)9 132 4442