Notices of strike concerning teachers will be extended to the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. The latest notice of strike concerns 11,400 teachers. The aim of the teachers' strike is to secure fair salaries for teachers employed by the municipalities and to safeguard the continuity of high-quality education in Finland.
The notice of strike issued by the negotiating organisation JUKO and the OAJ on 21 March concerns teachers employed by the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen. The week-long strike will take place between 19 April and 25 April, unless a resolution is reached before those dates.
The notice of strike is the fourth one issued by JUKO concerning teachers in the public sector. Previous notices of strike have been issued for Jyväskylä, Rovaniemi, Tampere, Kuopio, Turku and Oulu. If these strikes take place, they will apply to more than 22,000 members of the OAJ. The strikes will be carried out in phases, with the first one on 6 April.
Salary programme and bigger picture on the line
A resolution to the dispute in the public sector is sought almost daily with the National Conciliator. The validity of the agreements expired on 28 February 2022, and new agreements have yet to be reached. OAJ is represented in the negotiations by JUKO, of which OAJ is a member organisation.
The public sector faces, in particular, the challenge of salary developments lagging behind other sectors, for which the employee side has offered a multiannual salary programme as a solution.
“The salary programme could help to correct the injustices that have arisen over the years. Salaries in the public sector are lagging further and further behind those in the private sector. If this continues, the public sector will no longer be an attractive employer. It is high the time to start effectively pursuing fairer salaries for teachers, who foster the best professionals in the world decade after decade,” says Olli Luukkainen, President of OAJ and JUKO.
The last time the pay gap was mitigated was in 2004 and 2007, when additional increases of four per cent in the public sector were achieved through a salary programme. If the municipalities are not competitive with the private sector as employers, it will have consequences that, according to Luukkainen, are not yet understood.
“Finnish high-quality education is an integral part of Finland's overall security. We cannot afford to allow our education system to deteriorate, as it not only produces experts across all professional fields, but also guarantees the very basis of our democracy. Equality in the Finnish school system reduces inequality and fosters independent thinkers. The significance of these for Finland is particularly evident this spring,” Luukkainen says.
If ECEC centres, schools and educational institutions are unable to attract highly competent new teachers, the quality of education will deteriorate. Pay is an obvious incentive, and it must be appropriate.
“The work of teachers is valuable and demanding, and that value should also be reflected in the amount of compensation. It is quite simply not right that, for instance, an early childhood education teacher who recently graduated from university has a salary of just over EUR 2,400. For class teachers, the starting salary is also just over EUR 2,700. According to a recent report, Finns believe that a fair salary would be nearly EUR 500 higher,” explains Chief of Communications at OAJ, Heikki Pölönen, who is in charge of OAJ's Shaping Futures project.
OAJ aims for salary increases that ensure earnings development for teachers, a multiannual salary programme, and the limitation of workload. Read more about the negotiation objectives (FI)
OAJ has compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the strike.
Securing the future through the strike
OAJ defends the position of teachers by striking. It is never a good time for a strike, and OAJ wants to achieve agreements primarily by negotiating. Even in the middle of a crisis, it is still important to ensure not only the continuation of everyday life but also the building of the future. Teachers are tasked with shaping the future, and it is essential for Finland as a whole that we have the best teachers in the world in the future, as well.
Agreements cannot simply be amended at any given time. It must be done when the agreements are suspended. The stalled collective agreements are now being hurried along with notices of strike that concern OAJ members who are under the municipal collective agreement for the education sector and the general collective agreement for municipal personnel, and whose employer is the city. The directors and principals of ECEC centres are also included in the scope of the strike.
The strike does not concern educational consortiums, private schools or ECEC centres. Members organised in the Trade Union of Education in Finland through KEA ry (Koulutuksen esimiehet ja asiantuntijat) or Opsia ry (Finnish Association of Educational Directors and Experts) have also been excluded from the strike.
During the strike, teachers employed by the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kaunianen will not go to their workplaces, provide distance teaching, or handle any other work-related tasks. The employers will withhold the teachers’ salaries during the strike, but OAJ will pay a strike benefit of EUR 180 per strike day to its members. Members covered by the strike will receive separate instructions from OAJ closer to the strike.
OAJ and JUKO have trained the local strike operators in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Information about local events and further instructions can be found through the local OAJ associations in the strike cities. For example, in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, a demonstration entitled Palkkapäivä (Pay Day) will be organised, together with other federations, at Senate Square on 5 April.
The National Conciliator has exercised their right to request the Minister of Employment to postpone the strikes for socially compelling reasons. The Minister postponed the strikes in Jyväskylä, Rovaniemi, Tampere and Kuopio by two weeks on the basis of matriculation exams.
By contrast, the strike days in Oulu and Turku, which are not set to take place in conjunction with matriculation exams, have not been postponed.
The Minister may also postpone the strike in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area by two weeks if they, with the National Conciliator, consider that there are sufficient social grounds for postponement.
Strike-breaking is illegal
OAJ has received numerous messages from members that the employer is trying to break the strike. In some municipalities, for example, the employer is compiling a list of supervisors whom the employer wishes to exclude from the strike.
However, enquiries regarding trade union membership are prohibited by law. A strike is a legal measure for which the trade union is responsible. The employer is not allowed to pressure persons participating in the strike and cannot ask employees whether they are members of the trade union or intend to participate in the strike.
The right to strike is a constitutional right of a democratic society, the restriction of which is a serious offence. Violation of the freedom of association is punishable under criminal law.
Second ban on overtime and shift change started
Today, 21 March, saw the second overtime and interaction ban, which concerns all Finnish teachers working in the public sector. In practice, the ban applies, in particular, to early childhood education teachers in an employment relationship. Civil servants may not, by law, take part in any organisational measures other than a strike.