Questions and answers on the strike

1. Why have we taken industrial action?

The Industrial Union protects its members’ interests. The union’s main objectives in the collective bargaining process are as follows: 1) eliminating the unpaid extra hours introduced by the Competitiveness Pact, 2) blocking employers’ proposals of less favourable terms, and 3) gaining pay rises that secure purchasing power.

The employers against whom the present industrial action is aimed have continued to insist that the Competitiveness Pact must be upheld. Moreover, employers have not given up their proposals to weaken workers’ position, rights and terms of employment. The fact that not a single improvement to the terms of employment has been brought to the table is expressive of employers’ attitude.

The Industrial Union is therefore left with no alternative but to expedite the negotiations through industrial action in order to protect the position and rights of its members.

Taking the labour market in a direction that is more favourable to workers is in workers’ own hands. Workers can only achieve their goal by joining a union, becoming organised and fighting for their rights together.

2. Who is within the scope of the strike?

The strike applies to selected workplaces in the mechanical forestry industry.

All work that is governed by a collective agreement applied at the workplace falls within the scope of the strike.

Support strike at the workplace that falls within the scope of the strike will include work that is governed by the collective agreement of technology industry.

A list of the workplaces that are participating in the strike can be found here.

The strike affects all workers regardless of job description or membership in the Industrial Union.

Note: The Industrial Union has also declared a strike to selected workplaces in the rubber industry; in the oil, natural gas and petrochemical industry; in the basic chemical industry; in the glass and ceramics industry; and in the plastic products industry and chemical products industry. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland TEM has decided to move the strike to begin on February 10.

3. When does the strike start and when will it end?

The strike covers all rostered shifts that begin between midnight on Monday 27 January 2020 and 23.59 on Sunday 9 February 2020.

Shifts that begin before midnight but continue into the strike period will be completed.

Shifts that are scheduled to begin during the strike period will not be begun or completed. Employees will report for duty for their first shift beginning after midnight on the day following the strike period.

During the strike, production at the workplace will cease. Any processes that require shutdown time will be shut down before the strike begins and started up again once the strike has ended.

4. Is the strike legal?

Yes. The collective agreements of all the sectors that are participating in the strike will have expired when the strike begins. These sectors are therefore under no contractual obligation to keep industrial peace. The right to take industrial action is a fundamental right.

A support strike is also a legal measure, even if the collective agreement is in force.

5. Can my employer terminate my contract if I take part in the strike?

No. When industrial action is initiated by a trade union, employers are not allowed to terminate or cancel employment contracts because of participating in the industrial action. The Industrial Union is a trade union.

6. What if my employer orders me to work despite the strike?

A strike is a legal measure that employers cannot interfere with for example by attempting to prevent employees from leaving the workplace or by imposing penalties. Shop stewards also participate in the strike.

If your employer tries to prevent you from taking part in the strike, please contact the Industrial Union’s strike service.

7. What limits have been set on the strike?

The following work is excluded from the strike: work for safeguarding human lives and health; work to prevent serious environmental threats; work at company occupational health care clinics; industrial fire brigades; and emergency work.

The Industrial Union’s central strike committee has set the limits for the strike and communicated them to the chief shop stewards of the workplaces that are participating in the strike. The chief shop stewards are responsible for negotiating with employers which work, if any, is excluded from the strike according to the strike limits.

Exemptions to strike limits may only be granted by the Industrial Union’s central strike committee. Employers may apply for exemptions by e-mailing the strike service.

8. Will strike benefits be paid to those who participate in the strike?

Yes. The strike benefit is EUR 70 per rostered shift.

Of this amount, EUR 16 is tax-free. The Union will deduct withholding tax on the remaining amount as per the decision of the Tax Administration and pay this tax directly to the Tax Administration. The net amount paid will be EUR 51.10. Members do not need to submit their tax cards for this purpose.

Only members of the union are entitled to strike benefits. Strike benefits will be granted to members of the Industrial Union who have joined the union no later than on 23 January 2020.

9. How do I apply for strike benefits?

Go through eService on the Industrial Union website to apply for strike benefit. You will need your personal online banking details to log in.

You may apply for a strike benefit for the first week from Monday 3 February, for the second week from Monday 10 February and for the third week from Monday 17 February.The strike benefit must be applied before 15 March. The benefits will be paid at the earliest 6 February, 13 February  and 20 February. The benefits will be paid approximately in one week since leaving the application.

If you cannot see a button that says ‘Strike benefits’ after you have logged in, check that you have entered the details of your workplace in your eService profile. If the button still does not appear, please e-mail [email protected].

Note: You can only apply for strike benefit through eService on the Industrial Union website. You cannot apply for it through eService on the website of the Unemployment Fund of Finnish Industrial Workers (Teollisuuden työttömyyskassa).

10. Who does the overtime ban apply to?

The overtime ban applies to the agreement sectors of the rubber industry; the oil, natural gas and petrochemical industry; the chemical basic industry; the glass and ceramics industry; the plastic products industry and chemical products industry; and the mechanical forestry industry.

11. When will the overtime ban start and end?

The overtime ban begins on Monday 13 January 2020 and ends on Sunday 9 February 2020.

12. Is the overtime ban legal?

Yes. An overtime ban declared by a trade union is always legal industrial action.

13. Can an employer order me to work overtime?

No. During an overtime ban declared by a trade union, employees do not work overtime.

14. Can an employer fire me because of complying with the overtime ban?

No. An overtime ban declared by a trade union is always legal industrial action. Besides, an employee always has the right to refuse to work overtime anyway.

Moreover, when industrial action is initiated by a trade union, employers are not allowed to terminate or cancel employment contracts because of participating in the industrial action. The Industrial Union is a trade union. This applies to every form of industrial action.

15. How can I get more information about the strike and the overtime ban?

Please contact your shop steward or the Industrial Union strike service for more information on the strike.

The Industrial Union employment advisory service will provide information by phone on matters related to the strike and the overtime ban until 24 January. The phone number is 020 690 447.

The strike service helpline will be open for the first time on Sunday 26 January from 13.00 to 18.00.

Thereafter (27 January to 25 February), the strike service helpline will be open on weekdays from 08.30 to 17.00. The helpline will also be open on 26 February from 08.30 to 14.00.

The phone number of the strike service is +020 774 1039.The e-mail address for the strike service is [email protected].

16. Will the pay rise demands of the Industrial Union destroy competitiveness?

No. The Industrial Union is seeking pay rises that secure purchasing power for its members. These pay rises are also responsible in the sense that they will not jeopardise competitiveness or employment. Pay rises given to employees will largely be spent on domestic consumption, which boosts the national economy.

17. Will the industrial action destroy the national economy?

No. If the employers were really worried about this, they would have finalised the agreement talks a long time ago. As it is, the employers have considered it best to stall the talks by sticking to their goals and forcing the Industrial Union to take industrial action to expedite the talks.

Finland’s national economy is doing quite well at the moment. The gloomy prospects voiced in public from time to time are purely a negotiation tactic.

18. Will the industrial action cause companies to go bankrupt or relocate abroad?

It is easy to use industrial action as a bugbear in various horror scenarios. Yielding to such scare tactics would mean forfeiting our basic right to safeguard and promote employees’ rights, with industrial action if need be.

Employers have voiced much concern in public over the impacts of legal industrial action taken by employees. They have been rather less forthcoming about the impacts of their own legal industrial action, such as the lockout by employers in the forest industry from 12 to 18 December 2019.

19. Will the industrial action help employees at all?

It is vital to get rid of the proposals to weaken working conditions that employers have put forth in various negotiations. In the worst cases, these proposals would result in an income reduction of nearly 20%. It is equally vital to repel the employers’ attacks on employee organisation and on universally binding collective agreements. We must also ensure the continuity of the shop steward system.

The pay rises securing purchasing power as sought by the Industrial Union should be thought of as having a long-term impact: this will set the benchmark for future pay development.