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JHL: City of Oulu tries to break the right to strike with gift vouchers

The City of Oulu has distributed gift vouchers as a reward to those employees who did not participate in the strikes in September and October. JHL, the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors were incensed at this move by the City.

JHL, together with the Federation of Public and Private Sector Employees Jyty opposed the plans to outsource food, cleaning and ICT services in Oulu. This led to a one-day warning strike at the end of September followed by a three-day strike one week later.

The City Council, however, voted in favour of outsourcing. After a tied vote the council chairperson’s casting vote proved decisive.

Back in September the unions made it known that the employer had been coercing employees not to join the strikes. The City was also making inquiries into union membership and activity. Employers have no right to ask these kinds of questions, JHL and Jyty insisted.

Now, the City has been handing out gift vouchers to those employees who did not take part in the strikes. JHL and Jyty see this as grave discrimination and condemn it as an attempt to break the right to strike.

Distribution of gift vouchers contravenes several laws, the unions say. Equal treatment of employees is stipulated in the Constitution, Employment Contracts Act and Non-discrimination Act.

“The situation is incredible. As a public employer, the responsibility for even-handedness of the City is especially emphasized. In a properly run municipality based on equal treatment of employees no one can be discriminated against for union activity, or for any other reason. A non-discriminating municipality is a better municipality for both employees and citizens”, says Päivi Niemi-Laine, JHL President.

As an employer the City of Oulu has violated the legislation by treating members of the union in a different way to those who are not members, says Jyty President Maija Pihlajamäki. “Participating in industrial action is under no circumstances a justifiable reason for discrimination.”

Heikki Jokinen