On 28 February 2018, the University of Helsinki was closed for the second time over the last 100 years as reported by the Opetusalan Ammattijärjest (OAJ), one of the ETUCE member organisations in Finland.

Hundreds of higher education personnel shown their discontent with the employer party’s rejection over the proposed conciliation solution by the National Conciliator’s Office at the University of Helsinki on 28 February 2018. As a matter of fact, the Finish university sector has been without a collective agreement since the beginning of February 2018. New collective agreement negotiations are not progressing because the employer has indicated contempt for its staff throughout the negotiations. Furthermore, the suggested salary increases, modest in scope, do not indicate that the valuable work performed by the personnel is actually respected. Universities can afford to increase salaries whilst maintaining the current operational level as there was no deficit in the financial statement of any university in 2016. In addition, the cuts in government funding have already been compensated for by massive staff reductions.

The employer is completely unwilling to discuss objectives important to employees, such as improving the status of fixed-term employees, rationalising the use of working hours, discussing the compensation for travel time and remote work, enhancing the conditions for research and reasonable salary increases”, reported OAJ.

Supporting one of the ETUCE member organisations, Susan Flocken, ETUCE European Director said “ETUCE believes that quality higher education is based on qualified, well-supported educators and engaged students. ETUCE member organisations daily report about teachers’ deteriorating working and living conditions, including salary freezes and cuts. To safeguard the provision of quality higher education, the governments must support educators and university staff by means of respect and recognition of their work , i.e. by guaranteeing decent salaries”.

Next industrial action is to take place on 7 March 2018 at the six universities. The third targeted industrial action is foreseen as a strike at seven universities and schools under them on 14 March 2018 from 0:00 to 24:00, unless a conclusion is reached in the negotiations by March 13.

Being at the forefront of the advocacy for a European-wide response, led by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), ETUCE continues its fight for the restauration of collective bargaining, encouraged and promoted as the only way to tackle wealth and wage inequalities across Europe.

Despite the fact that a strike notice has been issued, negotiations naturally continue.