Improving labour laws reduces the need for industrial action
The right to industrial action is one of the fundamental rights for workers. When discussing unlawful strikes, it’s worth bearing in mind that opportunities for employees to demonstrate their opinions are almost non-existent in Finland while collective agreements are in effect. For instance, staging a walkout in response to an employer’s unlawful actions is almost always considered to be a breach of agreement and a so-called unlawful strike.
Compared with other Nordic countries or Europe as a whole, Finland is not especially prone to strikes. Nevertheless, the opposite is suggested in a report published by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum (EVA) on 2 November 2016, entitled Suomen tauti (‘The Finnish Disease’).
Antti Koskela, economist at Service Union United PAM, is annoyed with the false impression portrayed in the EVA report. During the 21st century, the prevalence of strikes in Norway and Denmark has been on a par with the situation in Finland. He also points out that comparing what is going on in Finland exclusively with Sweden creates a misconception that Finland is particularly prone to strikes. This does not give an accurate picture of the overall situation.
‘In Finland, the number of days not worked due to strikes has dropped to about one tenth from the most contentious times of the 1970’s. At present, industrial peace is at a relatively average European level. The employee side uses its right to industrial action very responsibly,’ says Koskela.
In Sweden, the right of employees to codetermination and the right of trade unions to bring class action lawsuits, enshrined in law, have improved industrial peace, thus reducing the number of strikes. The Codetermination Act has strengthened the role of employees in corporate decision-making processes.
‘In Sweden, employee representatives can participate in corporate decision-making. This improves trust and co-operation between the parties. A similar practice is also in place in Germany. Finland should also improve employees’ opportunities to influence corporate decision-making through powers laid down by law, while also granting trade unions the right to bring class action. These would certainly improve industrial peace and reduce the number of “unlawful strike days”, which will otherwise not be achieved through dictating terms alone,’ says Koskela.