The Finnish labor legislation – an introduction part 9
Representatives of the Employees at the Work Place The shop steward and the occupational health and safety representative systems in Finland.
In Finland, there is a specific shop steward system that is recognized by the employers and based on collective agreements I have discussed before. It provides a representative (a shop steward, or “luottamusmies”) to the employees who are organized in trade unions.
In work places such as universities, the shop steward system is an established structure and therefore usually works rather well. Shop stewards may negotiate on behalf of an individual employee or on behalf of a collective of employees. In work places that are not bound by a specific collective agreement and therefore have no elected shop stewards, the Employment Contracts Act (chapter 13 section 3) allows the employees to elect a specially appointed representative (“luottamusvaltuutettu”).
The shop stewards and the employees’ representatives receive a certain time off from their work duties due to the shop steward/representative duties and also collect a small monthly award from the employer. An employee who is not organized in a trade union, may not use the shop steward services, because the collective agreement only appoints the shop steward to represent the organized employees. The representative elected according to the Employment Contracts Act, however, may represent the whole employee collective. The shop steward/representative status has protection against dismissal according to the Employment Contracts Act.
The occupational health and safety representative’s position is not based on the collective agreement, but on the Act on Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement and Cooperation on Occupational Safety and Health at Workplaces. Therefore, the occupational health and safety representative is a mandatory representative at larger work places (places with at least 10 employees).
The occupational safety and health representative represents the employees of the workplace when dealing with various matters in cooperation with the employer. Additionally, it is the duty of the occupational safety and health representative to become familiar, on his or her own initiative, with the environment of the workplace, matters connected with the state of the work community and matters affecting the safety and health of employees. They also need to be familiar with occupational safety and health legislation. The occupational safety and health representative shall also participate in inspections and expert investigations relating to occupational safety and health, if the expert or occupational safety and health authority considers the participation necessary.
The occupational safety and health representative shall also, for his or her own part, make the employees he or she represents pay attention to matters that promote safety and health at work. The occupational health and safety representative is also protected against dismissal according to the Employment Contracts Act.
In the next article, I will discuss the renewed Non-Discrimination Act and The Act on Equality between Women and Men.
For more information, please visit:
text Mia Weckman