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Trade union ready for a spring of strikes: JHL will pay record-high strike benefits to members, the union’s finances are solid

During this round of collective agreement negotiations, the municipal sector’s low-pay employees have been offered modest pay raises. JHL is forced to exert pressure on the employer with strikes, and the union has enough funds even for a long wave of strikes.

Trade Union JHL wishes to lift the municipal sector’s employees out of the pay gap: Children’s nurses, library employees, practical nurses, teaching assistants, road maintenance supervisors, cleaners, cooks, instruments attendants, and other star professionals of their sectors.

It will not be possible to lift the sector out of the pay gap without a multi-year pay regime.

That will only be possible with proper pay raises. That is why JHL is pushing for a multi-year pay regime to municipalities. According to Local Government and County Employers KT, the proposal is too expensive.

The municipal sector’s collective agreement negotiations broke down at the end of February, which is also when the current collective agreement’s period of validity came to an end. At the beginning of March, a so-called period without agreement began. During this period, strikes and other industrial actions are allowed.

In Rovaniemi, a strike took place last March.

Inflation eats up the raises already in advance

National Conciliator Vuokko Piekkala took over in trying to reach an agreement. On 29 March, she gave a conciliation proposal for the sector’s labour dispute.

Already the next day, Trade Union JHL rejected the proposal. The pay raises presented in the proposal were insufficient, and no pay regime had been included at all.

The benefit is large enough that nobody will have to go stand in a breadline.

JHL President Päivi Niemi-Laine

JHL President Päivi Niemi-Laine criticises the proposal in the union’s press release:

– The first year’s pay raise would have been a ridiculous 1 per cent general raise and a locally distributable share of 1 per cent. The second year would have been equally as ridiculous, a general increase of 1 per cent and a locally distributable share of 0.9 per cent. Inflation is now running so wild that it eats up the raises already in advance.

Historical strike benefit on offer

JHL and other trade unions have started numerous industrial actions in order for the agreement negotiations to reach a proper result.

There have already been two-day strikes in Rovaniemi, Jyväskylä, Kuopio and Tampere. Next up are Turku and Oulu. If the strikes have no effect, the industrial actions will be moved to the Helsinki Metropolitan Region on 19 April. At the same time, the length of the strike will be extended to one week.

The union has enough funds for the historically large strike benefits.

JHL supports its striking members with the most generous strike benefit of its history. The amount of the benefit has been raised to EUR 160/day, and it will be paid for a maximum of five days a week. Most of the benefit is taxable income. The benefit is applied for through the myJHL service.

– Our members do their crucial work with a big heart and with too little pay. We wanted to raise the benefit to such a level that nobody has to go stand in a breadline after having been on strike. The amount of the strike benefit is determined on a case-by-case basis, Päivi Niemi-Laine justifies the significant benefit.

The strike also applies to those who work on zero-hour contracts, and temporary employees. If the employer, say, asks for a student called to work as needed to fill in for an employee who is on strike, the student may refuse to carry out the shift, and he/she has the right to strike benefit. A proof of the job offer must be presented.

Trade Union JHL’s finances are solid 

The trade union’s funds will cover the strike benefits. The strikes that JHL has notified of affect a large number of members, so there will be plenty to pay.

JHL’s latest confirmed financial statement concerns the period 1 January–31 December 2020. The financial period’s surplus increased to over 25 million euros. In addition, the balance sheet is solid.

The trade union’s Director of Finance Jan Saarinen explains that the union has enough funds.

– In the long term, the trade union’s finances are managed in such a way that the union does not use too much of its assets. Sometimes, strikes and other industrial actions are necessary in a negotiating situation. JHL has plenty of money for activities that improve the members’ position in the labour market.

Municipal sector’s spring of strikes

  • The municipal sector’s previous agreement period ended at the end of February 2022. No agreement was reached in the negotiations, and on 7 March the matter went on to be processed by the National Conciliator.
  • The purpose of the strikes and other industrial actions is to reach a negotiation result that safeguards employees’ purchasing power.
  • The strikes apply to all of the municipal sector’s collective agreements.
  • The first strike took place in Rovaniemi and Jyväskylä between 23 and 24 April.
  • A strike in Tampere and Kuopio took place between 29 and 30 March. Turku and Oulu are next in line (6–7 April), and the Helsinki Metropolitan Region after them (19–25 April).
  • Approximately 81,000 employees are involved in the strikes.
  • JHL will pay a strike benefit of EUR 160/day, for a maximum of five days a week.
  • Tehy and SuPer, too, have started extensive strikes. The strike benefit provided by both unions is EUR 140/day. It will be paid for seven days a week.
  • JHL has also started three extensive bans on overtime and shift swaps in the municipal sector. The latest one started on 4 April, it will end on 10 April.
  • Trade unions Jyty and JUKO participated in the ban too.