In recent days, OAJ has received an exceptional number of messages regarding employers' attempts to break teachers' right to strike. Employers have drawn up lists of, among other things, principals and directors of ECEC centres joining the strike. Both participation in industrial action and membership of a trade union are personal matters and legal rights of everyone, which the employer is not allowed to investigate in advance.
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.
“Employers cannot ask teachers or supervisors whether they belong to a trade union or whether they intend to go on strike. The right to strike applies not only to all teachers, but also to all supervisors. In JUKO’s view, only the chief executive and highest management of the municipality represent the municipal employer in a way that excludes the right to take industrial action,” says Erkki Mustonen, OAJ's Leading Legal Counsel.
There has already been an exceptionally high number of excesses by employers during this round of agreement negotiations and in many municipalities around the country, especially in those municipalities where notices of strike have now been issued.
OAJ defines who the strike concerns
Members have reported that, for example, in some municipalities, the employer has compiled a list of supervisors who should not go on strike. These individuals have been informed of being excluded from the strike due to their position. However, enquiries regarding trade union membership are considered breaking the strike and are prohibited by law.
Kaj Raiskio, Chair of JUKO's Central Industrial Action Committee’s association group and Special Advisor at OAJ, considers the municipalities' actions to be incomprehensible and in violation of both the constitutional freedom of association and the GDPR rules defining the collection of personal data.
“Reports regarding violations are coming from all over the country, but the situation is currently the worst in Oulu and Rovaniemi. We have generally not seen this type of list collection for several decades in Finland. Nowadays, this type of phenomenon is really only seen in developing countries. In our contemporary democracy, the situation at hand is scandalous,” says Raiskio.
JUKO and OAJ define the strike limits for OAJ members and are responsible for the choices made. The employer does not have the power to determine who is allowed to go on strike and who is not.
“There are no legal obstacles for an individual member with regard to striking. The finances of members are secured with a strike benefit, which in the case of OAJ is significant at EUR 180 per day,” says Raiskio.
Freedom of association, and the right to strike as an integral part of it, is a fundamental employee right in a democratic society. That right is based on the case law of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the European Court of Human Rights. The freedom of association of employees is guaranteed by the Constitution of Finland.
Notices of strike across six cities
So far, OAJ has issued four notices of strike in a total of ten cities: Jyväskylä, Rovaniemi, Tampere, Kuopio, Oulu and Turku, Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen. The strike would concern those OAJ members who are covered the municipal collective agreement for the education sector and the general collective agreement for municipal personnel and are employed by the city. The directors and principals of ECEC centres are also included in the scope of the strike. The strike would involve 22,000 members of the OAJ.
The strike does not apply to educational consortiums in the aforementioned cities. 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.
A notice of strike must be given to the employer and the National Conciliator two weeks before the start of the strike. The National Conciliator has the statutory right to postpone the strike for two weeks without the employees being able to influence the postponement.