The universities’ general collective agreement is an agreement on the conditions for people working at universities. JUKO (the Negotiation Organization for Public Sector Professionals), representing employees, and Finnish Education Employers negotiate on the contents of the agreement. Because this is a true agreement, it means that all its provisions are the result of long negotiations.
Every two years, the full range of terms is renegotiated: working hours, paid family leave, sick leave pay, annual leave, teaching hour caps and staff representatives. If these negotiations did not happen, employees’ terms would be set by labour legislation. Saturday would no longer be considered a working and consequently it would use up a holiday leave day, compensation for family leave would be paid by Kela only and the employer would decide on the number of teaching hours.
A good soup consists of the best ingredients, and a nourishing soup gives you the strength to do long working days. Likewise, a good collective agreement consists of good, fair terms. Collective agreements develop working life, and their effects also extends to leisure time. They also reflect social changes, such as the rise in working from home due to Covid or the family leave reform in the pipeline, which will bring parents flexibility.
Both employers and employees need a collective agreement, as it brings well-being and stability to working life and helps both organizations and employees plan for their future.
We have all the tools at our disposal to create a collective agreement that is fit for purpose. So, let’s dip our spoons into the soup, not to stir the pot but to make the collective agreement better than ever before, through negotiation and agreement. The chefs are the best experts of working life: our negotiation organization, JUKO, and the unions. If you are not yet a member of a union, contact the shop steward in your workplace. You can only be involved in developing and defending the collective agreement as a union member!
Definition and Purpose of the Collective Agreement
A collective agreement is a contract that defines the terms of work between the employer or employers’ association and the representatives of the workers, i.e., the trade union. The purpose of the collective agreement is to agree on the basic aspects of the employment relationship, such as wages, working hours, holidays, sick leave, notice period, and other benefits. The collective agreement is part of labor legislation and is supplemented by the Employment Contracts Act, which is a general law for all employment relationships. The collective agreement aims to safeguard the rights and benefits of workers and promote industrial peace and cooperation in workplaces.
Parties to the Collective Agreement and Negotiations
The parties to the collective agreement are the employer or employers’ association and the trade union(s). For example, the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) represents several employers’ associations from different sectors, while the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), Akava (Juko), and the Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK) represent unions belonging to different professional groups or based on education.
Collective agreement negotiations are a process in which the parties aim to agree on a new or revised collective agreement. Negotiations can last for weeks or months depending on the negotiation atmosphere and the number of disagreements. Negotiations consist of several stages, such as preparations, initial negotiations, sector-specific negotiations, main negotiations, and final settlement.
If the negotiations do not produce a result and the parties do not reach a consensus, they can resort to industrial action, such as strikes or blockades. These are legal means to pressure the opposing party to accept their own demands. For example, a few years ago, when the negotiations of university staff did not progress sufficiently and in the desired manner, the locomotive men (JHL) announced a support strike. This announcement affected the negotiations to be concluded quickly.
Standard Binding and Generally Binding Collective Agreement
Collective agreements can be classified based on their binding nature into standard binding or generally binding agreements. This means how broadly the agreement applies to employers and employees operating in the sector.
A standard binding agreement binds only those employers and employees who are members of the organizations that have made the agreement. About 10% of all collective agreements are standard binding. It requires that the employer and employee have agreed to comply with the agreement.
A generally binding agreement binds all employers and employees operating in the sector, regardless of whether they are organized or not. About 90% of all collective agreements are generally binding. It requires that the members of the employee unions that have made the agreement represent at least half of the employees working in the sector. The general applicability is stated by the Board for the Confirmation of the General Applicability of Collective Agreements (TTVL).
Content and Scope of the Collective Agreement
The collective agreement contains various provisions that relate to the terms of work. Some common provisions are:
- Wages: defines the amount of wages, method of payment and time of payment, as well as possible supplements, such as overtime compensation or holiday pay.
- Working Hours: Defines the length of regular working hours, rest periods, breaks, and overtime limits, as well as possible flexibilities, such as flexible working hours or the use of remote work.
- Holidays: Defines the length of the annual leave, the leave accrual year, holiday pay and holiday compensation, as well as possible other days off, such as public holidays or ‘pekkas’ days.
- Sick Pay: Defines the notification of sick leave, the presentation of a medical certificate, and the conditions and terms for paying sick pay.
- Notice Period: Defines the length and grounds of the notice period, as well as the methods of giving and receiving notice.
- Occupational Safety: Defines the organization of occupational safety and occupational health care, as well as the participation and influence of workers in occupational safety activities.
- Industrial Peace: Defines the obligation of industrial peace, which means that during the validity of the agreement, no industrial action may be taken.
The collective agreement is a central part of Finnish labor legislation. It defines the terms of work and aims to safeguard the rights and benefits of workers. Collective agreement negotiations are an important process in which consensus is sought between employers and workers. Standard binding and generally binding agreements offer different levels of binding. The provisions contained in the employment contract cover many different aspects of work. All in all, the employment contract is an important tool for promoting fair and balanced working life in Finland.