University sector collective agreement negotiations begin in February

The universities’ general collective agreement is in force until the end of March 2022. In the negotiations, the university employers are represented by Finnish Education Employers, and 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). JUKO is by far the largest main collective agreement party: more than 18,000 Akava union members work at universities.

Nearly everyone working at Finnish universities falls under the scope of the collective agreement. For example, at the University of Helsinki just four employer representatives (rector, head of administration, director of human resources and chief financial officer) and the chancellor fall outside the scope of the agreement.

The general labour market situation has and doesn’t have an impact

Several collective agreement negotiations were conducted in the private sector last autumn. They reached solutions, and the trend of general pay increases has started to form. The public sector collective agreement negotiations (municipal and state sectors) started immediately after the Christmas holidays. The public sector’s negotiation goals are primarily about pay rises.

In collective bargaining negotiations, trade unions have tended to aim for pay rises that secure their members’ purchasing power. That is also the case in the university sector. We closely monitor and evaluate the pay solutions reached in other negotiations. Apart from the solutions regarding the level of pay increase and duration of the agreement, the labour market situation does not affect other negotiating goals for the universities’ collective agreement. 

Throughout autumn last year, the unions in the university sector prepared their collective agreement goals, which JUKO has summarized. Thus, the parties are making efforts to use agreement goals tailored for higher education to achieve improvements in university personnel’s working conditions — to improve their ability to do their jobs. The work of the working groups agreed in the collective agreement also focuses exclusively on universities. This means that it can tackle the teaching hour cap in universities and problems related to contact teaching. 

Readiness for action supports negotiations

As the collective agreement negotiations approach, readiness for industrial action is also being heightened. In particular, this means telling members as openly and punctually as possible about the matters being aimed for in the negotiations and how the negotiations are progressing. Readiness for industrial action also means supporting and training individual strike committees in universities. Cooperation between JUKO unions and the main contractual parties JUKO, JHL and Pro helps bolster this readiness.

In spring 2022, the collective agreement negotiations will be conducted under the slogan of WE ARE THE UNIVERSITY. This slogan has been in use since 2010, and it was under it that university employees were forced to take strike action for the first time in history in 2018. When you see the slogan you know that negotiations to improve university employees’ working conditions are being conducted right now!

Anna Zibellini, labour market lawyer