University employees’ working conditions must be improved

University employees have been overstretching themselves throughout the pandemic. As the rectors of the universities write, teachers have borne the burden of adapting remote working tools and new pedagogical solutions, and for two spring semesters in a row the universities have organized entrance examinations with extensive special arrangements. Academic research is the bedrock of our society’s crisis resistance. 

The negotiations on the new collective agreement for the university sector have now begun. Earlier this month, we JUKO negotiators held a joint seminar with the employer representatives, where we got an overview of the country’s economic situation and of universities’ finances. In addition, we learnt about well-being surveys being conducted by the pension provider Varma. We also discussed the ground rules for the negotiations.

Collective agreements are how university employees’ working conditions and pay rises are agreed. We want the universities to be competitive, attractive workplaces that promote a positive type of working life. University employees’ working conditions must be improved. Teaching and research staff deserve more time for research and art. It is nothing short of shameful that 70% of teaching and research staff continue to work on fixed-term contracts. The ground rules on remote and multi-locational work need to be clarified, particularly when it comes to other professional staff. Shop stewards, who are crucial actors in staff issues, need better working conditions and access to information.

And pay rises? I have negotiated university collective agreements since 2009, and at every round I have heard how universities’ funding has decreased and how the future is tinged with uncertainty. Inflation is rampant, and the government’s budget negotiations are coming up. We want to achieve a salary solution that boosts purchasing power. JUKO has traditionally sought general increases, in percentages, to ensure all staff groups see their salaries progress. The JUKO and member unions’ websites are good sources for following the university negotiations, as well as on social media using the hashtags #Neuvotellen2022 #isamråd2022 #Negotiating2022. The Collective Agreement Campaign site offers you further information about the universities’ collective agreement and its significance for university employees.

Tarja Niemelä

Chairperson of the JUKO university advisory council

executive director, Finnish Union of University Professors


The current university collective agreement is in force until the end of March. The goal is to conclude negotiations on a new agreement before then. The parties to the university collective agreement held a joint seminar on 1 February. The university collective agreement negotiations themselves began on 11 February.

Who is negotiating?

In the collective agreement negotiations, the university staff are represented by JUKO, the Negotiation Organization for Public Sector Professionals, the Pro Trade Union, and JHL, the Trade Union for Public and Welfare Sectors. The employer (university) side is represented by Finnish Education Employers.

The JUKO university sector negotiators are: head of collective bargaining Katja Aho (JUKO), university advisory board chairperson Tarja Niemelä (executive director, Finnish Union of University Professors), university advisory board member Hanna Tanskanen (special adviser, Trade Union of Education in Finland, OAJ), university advisory board member Petri Toiviainen (negotiations manager, Social Science Professionals) and deputy chairperson of the university advisory board Mia Weckman (director of advocacy, Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers). We are an experienced, close-knit team. We are supported by the JUKO university advisory council, in which all Akava trade unions with members working in the university sector are represented either directly or through coalitions of unions.