Academic Self-Defence Courses: Looking Back and Planning Ahead
For the past two years, The Finnish
Union of University Researchers and
Teachers (FUURT) has organized
courses for the international community
in Finnish universities. The goal has
been to provide fast and easy information
of the rights at the workplace.
The term ‘Academic Self Defense’ refers to informing
employees of their legal rights at the work place. Also
knowledge about how the Finnish labor system works
was provided at these sessions. It is important for the
international community to be aware of how collective
bargaining affects for instance their salaries. Basic
understanding of the collective agreement and basic
knowledge of the most important labor legislation
constitute a key for every employee for knowing their
rights. This was also a chance for the participants to
ask questions regarding their employment face to face
with the instructor.
These sessions have been successful. The Union
has managed to distribute information. It has reached
out to the international community and established a
dialogue with the international researchers. The Union
has also learned a lot more about their everyday
troubles. Most of the information gained during the
courses has been compiled into a new English-language
FAQ on the Union website, which works as a
vault of information on academic labor issues, as well
as employment- and unemployment-related questions.
The Self Defense courses have also presented the
Union with challenges. Advertising and spreading
the word of the sessions has been a bit problematic.
Entangled university structure, less than adequate
internet services and the overall dispersal of the international
community — which are always different
in each university — make it difficult to reach all those
who would benefit from the info sessions. Although
most sessions drew in lots of people, there were a
few events where the turnout was smaller, mainly
because the word about the session had perhaps not
reached the potential audience. What next?
Regrettably there are some issues with which the Union
cannot be of much help to the international researchers.
The immigration practices and bureaucracy
are not exactly trade union matters (see page 38).
But in other matters, such as the collective agreement,
work contract issues and unemployment matters, the
Union has helped the international researchers living
in Finland. Of course, there are matters in which the
Union could probably speak up more loudly. One such
issue is the discrimination of overseas academics. Although
“international” has become a magic word and
a measure of success in Finnish universities, the actual
implementation of practices related to international
issues leaves much to be desired. For instance,
more transparent hiring practices, demanded by the
international community, would benefit everyone in
our academic world.
Academic Self-Defense Courses have been delivered
in the form of general info sessions, aiming to provide
concise info on basic issues. If there is demand for
more specific sessions, the Union welcomes all proposals.
For example, it could be possible to organize a
seminar or a panel on the question of discrimination.
This also means that the international members of
academic community need to take up active role in
sharing their needs and concerns with the representatives
of local associations. Therefore, we warmly encourage
the international community to get in touch
with the representatives of local associations in order
to provide some insights into the ways in which the
union could better serve you. Let us know what kind
of topics you would like the Union to tackle in the future
sessions. As always, the Union will try to act as a
forum where people can have their voice heard.
Jussi Jalonen and Marta Choroszewicz
- Painetussa lehdessä sivu 32