A historically low number of labour disputes in 2016

19.1.2017 8.19 | Published in English on 19.1.2017 at 8.32
News item

When there are no ongoing labour disputes to be mediated, the National Conciliator focuses on work that prevents disputes, on providing training, and on following the changes taking place in the labour market and gaining an understanding of them.

In 2016, the number of labour market disputes requiring mediation was historically low in Finland. The National Conciliator’s Office recorded only one threat of a work stoppage in compliance with the Act on Mediation in Labour Disputes in 2016, and even that threat was settled before the work stoppage was due to start. The year of operation was fairly different from the previous one: year 2015 saw eight labour disputes, five of which were not settled until after the work stoppage had started.

Strikes threats in compliance with the Act on Mediation in Labour Disputes do not reveal the total number of industrial actions. The Act on Mediation in Labour Disputes only applies to threats of work stoppage related to signing collective agreements or collective agreements for public servants. The Act on Mediation in Labour Disputes does not apply to industrial action taking place when a collective agreement and the obligation to ensure industrial peace laid down in the agreement are in effect. Thus, it is not necessary to notify the National Conciliator in advance of such industrial action and such action is not covered by the system of labour dispute conciliation. Such labour disputes fall under the jurisdiction of the Labour Court. Likewise, political and sympathy strikes do not come within the scope of the advance notification and conciliation obligation laid down in the Act on Mediation in Labour Disputes.

The number of labour disputes in any year is affected by the number of ending agreements and the method of implementing the bargaining rounds. In 2016, the majority of collective agreements and collective agreements for public servants were concluded in accordance with the Competitiveness Pact negotiated by the labour market confederations. The next round in the labour market, due to start in autumn 2017, will be implemented separately with each union and following the new so-called Finnish model according to the Competitiveness Pact. The preparation of this model is still under way. The new practice will also affect the National Conciliator’s work as the conciliator’s activities must support the functionality of the new labour market model.

Preventive work important

When there are no ongoing labour disputes to be mediated, the National Conciliator focuses on work that prevents disputes, on providing training, and on following the changes taking place in the labour market and gaining an understanding of them.

  • The most visible part of the National Conciliator’s work is mediation in disputes that threaten industrial peace. However, work done to prevent disputes is still more important as the best solutions are reached through peaceful negotiation. The aim is to have as few threats of industrial action as possible.The National Conciliator is also responsible for ensuring that the decisions reached through conciliation are compatible with the whole labour market system. Background work must be carried out when there are no disputes, says National Conciliator Minna Helle.

During 2016, the National Conciliator conducted an active dialogue with stakeholders and gave speeches on the outlook for the labour market, the transformation of working life, the settling of labour disputes through conciliation, and the prerequisites for good conciliation in almost fifty events. The emphasis of cooperation at the level of the Nordic Countries was especially on the new labour market model and the other Nordic Countries’ experiences of the export-led model.

In 2016, the National Conciliator’s Office was also kept busy by disputes regarding the wage increases in the Pact for Employment and Growth. The office also conducted voluntary conciliation processes that have not involved a threat of a work stoppage. Voluntary conciliation is possible when it is requested by both parties to the dispute.

New website opened

In 2016, the National Conciliator’s Office was given a website of its own with three language versions and a new visual image. The communication of the office has been redesigned and updated in other ways, too. The National Conciliator communicates actively on both the website and in the social media.

  • Today, also the communications culture of the public administration must be as open as possible. I'm glad that the National Conciliator’s Office now has functional tools for ensuring sufficient and correctly timed communications, Minna Helle says.