Agreement Period, Salary, Working Hours Issues

The university sector will be among the last to begin the spring season’s bargaining effort, which will result in a new collective agreement for university personnel – hopefully by the end of March.

The parties of the university sector’s collective bargaining gathered momentum for the actual negotiations from a joint seminar on 23 January. The universities’ collective bargaining will begin for real on 7 February.

In the opening seminar, a review of the country’s general economic situation and particularly of the financial situation of universities was presented. In addition, the development of universities in the country’s government programme was discussed. According to the government programme, the university index is in effect and the basic funding has received a 40 million euro increase. Additionally, The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra’s balance is used for a 100 million euro one-time investment in the capitalization of universities. Additional investments are indeed necessary when the admissions quotas of higher education are being increased.

The seminar also brought forth the final results of the working groups that were agreed on in the previous collective agreement. The results of the fixed-term group were reported in the Acatiimi magazine 1/2020.

In addition, the parties discussed the principles for the collective bargaining negotiations and received announcements about the composition of the negotiations.

The university personnel are represented in the negotiations by the Negotiation Organisation for Public Sector Professionals JUKO, Trade Union PRO and The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL. The employers’ side is represented by the Finnish Education Employers (FEE).

The head negotiators from JUKO’s university sector are: Negotiation Manager Katja Aho (JUKO), Executive Director Tarja Niemelä (The Finnish Union of University Professors), University Ombudsman Hanna Tanskanen (The Trade Union of Education in Finland OAJ), Negotiation Manager Petri Toiviainen (Social Science Professionals) and Head of Advocacy Mia Weckman (The Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers).

Familiar objectives

The unions that work in the university sector have been preparing their own collective agreement objectives. These have been considered in JUKO’s university advisory committee’s seminar and meetings. The objectives were confirmed in the university advisory committee in January.

The central objectives relate to the agreement period, salary and working hours issues. JUKO’s university sector seeks to set the agreement period to two years maximum from 1 April, 2020.

As for salary increases, JUKO has traditionally sought percentual general increases. These need to guarantee a balanced salary development for all personnel and occupational groups. More definite outlines for the increases will be verified as the negotiations proceed.

In issues relating to working hours, the objective is to change the working hours back to 7 hours 15 minutes and correspondingly for those in total working time decreasing the hours specified in the collective agreement back to 1600 hours.

The maximum number of contact teaching hours should be decreased back to the level before the Competitiveness Pact. The caps on teaching hours protect teaching and research personnel.

The objectives relating to working hours also include reimbursements for work-related travel between different campus areas.

As for research periods, a more binding record than the previous one is being sought.

Decreasing the number of fixed-term contracts will remain one of the central objectives. Universities still lead the statistics on fixed-term employment. Shop stewards’ access to information about fixed-term contracts needs to be improved.

Member surveys conducted by different unions have highlighted problems relating to university personnel’s well-being at work. In the university negotiations, JUKO wants to improve well-being at work e.g. by recording that how this matter should be advanced and followed up on should be agreed on locally.

The university negotiations are worth following on JUKO’s and the unions’ websites and social media channels.

Text Kirsti Sintonen