Strike terminology

What is a legal strike? Why are strikes or industrial actions organised in the first place? How do strikes and political demonstrations differ from each other? How does one get strike benefit?

An understanding with the employer is not always reached by means of negotiating. In such a case, industrial action may be used as a means of exerting pressure. Read what the terms related to industrial actions mean.

Frequently asked questions about industrial actions

Additional work

Additional work refers to work that exceeds regular working hours but does not yet constitute overtime work. Additional work usually arises when a part-time employee’s working hours exceed those that have been agreed to be their working hours. The employer needs the employee’s consent for requiring them to perform additional work.

One should not give the consent to additional work in the employment contract. If the employee has given their consent to additional work in the employment contract, they are obligated to perform additional work by the employer’s order. An employee does not have a right to refuse additional work on a day when they have had to be prepared to be at work in any case.

The employee can only refuse additional work for a justified personal reason on a day off that has been marked in the shift roster. Justified personal reasons are, say,

  • studying
  • child care arrangements
  • medical reasons
  • journeys that cannot be cancelled anymore without incurring costs.

If the employee works under a so-called zero-hour contract or another contract with varying working hours, the employer is only allowed to require the employee to perform additional work in addition to the working hours marked in the shift roster if the employee gives their consent to it each time. It is also allowed to give the consent for a relatively short period at a time.

Ban on overtime and/or shift swaps

During a ban on overtime and shift swaps decided on by JHL, the members refrain from working overtime and swapping shifts. Employees who work in positions that the overtime ban applies to work only according to their regular working hours. It is forbidden to, say, accrue flex hours, perform additional work and work overtime, be on call outside one’s regular working hours and to travel. An overtime ban cannot be used as an industrial action for public officers/office-holders.

During a ban on shift swaps, only working hours according to the confirmed shift roster are performed. Shift-swapping or any other changes to working hours proposed by the employer are rejected.

Any other concessions, such as performing grey overtime and accruing flex hours is forbidden during a ban on overtime and shift swaps. In this situation, the shop steward must refrain from any local agreements proposed by the employer concerning working hours.

Compensatory fine

A compensatory fine is a sanction imposed by the Labour Court for an illegal strike on an employer union, association or trade union. A compensatory fine cannot be imposed on an individual employee for taking part in an illegal strike.

A compensatory fine can be imposed on a public officer/office-holder for taking part in an illegal strike.

Decision on industrial action

The Union Council or Executive Committee makes the decision concerning an industrial action. The decision is binding to the members. An industrial action notice is given after the decision.

Embargo

An embargo is an industrial action comparable to a demonstration or sympathy strike which involves employees of other companies refraining from working with and seeking work in the company under an embargo.

General strike

A broad strike agreed on mutually by employee confederations.

Industrial action

Industrial action is a means of exerting pressure. It is used, say, during collective agreement negotiations, if no agreement is reached.

Industrial actions include work stoppages i.e. strikes, bans on overtime and shift swaps, embargoes and walkouts.

The right to industrial action falls within the scope of freedom of association, guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

The right to strike is a universal and generally approved basic employee right.

Lockout

A lockout is an industrial action implemented by the employer. A lockout means that the employer prevents employees’ access to the workplace, interrupts the payment of their salaries or wages and declares the workplace closed so that employees cannot carry out work covered by the lockout action.

A lockout can be carried out, for instance, as a fixed-term action or as isolated days. A lockout can also be limited to the members of a particular trade union. The declaration of a lockout can apply to an individual company or to all member companies of an employer association.

Neutrality principle

Non-members and members of other unions are not obliged to carry out the work tasks which fall within the scope of the industrial action and which they do not normally perform. They have the right to refrain from carrying out such work tasks. Employee confederations have mutually agreed to apply the neutrality principle during industrial actions.

Obligation of industrial peace

According to the acts on collective agreements, agreement parties are not to take any industrial actions during the validity of a collective agreement that fall within the scope of such a collective agreement.

Period without agreement

When the validity of a collective agreement ends, a so-called period without agreement begins. In this situation, various industrial actions are legal.

Picketer

A picketer is a person monitoring that the strike is implemented. Picketers’ task is to encourage all those wishing to perform work that is within the scope of the strike to leave the workplace.

Picketers maintain order in front of the workplace on strike, distribute strike bulletins, and monitor employers’ actions.

The most important task of picketers is to encourage all those wishing to perform work that is within the scope of the strike to leave the workplace.

Protection work

Protection work refers to work pursuant to legislation on collective agreements for public servants that is necessary to prevent the health or lives of citizens from being endangered or to protect assets that are specifically endangered due to the industrial action.

The obligation to perform protection work only applies to public officers/office-holders. Also in these cases, employees do not carry out office or administrative work.

The right to strike of occupational groups that are considered critical for the society is normally restricted. Public officers/office-holders belonging to these occupational groups are obliged to perform protection work also during strikes.

Employees have no obligation to carry out protection work.

Strike benefit

JHL pays a strike benefit to its members for strikes decided by the union.  A condition for the payment is that the member has paid the membership fees and abides by the decisions and instructions issued by the union.

The amount of the benefit is determined by JHL’s Executive Committee. The benefit is income subject to tax.

Strikebreaker

A strikebreaker is person who carries out work tasks falling within the scope of the strike or does not abide by the union’s decision on the industrial action. A strikebreaker may also be a member of another union or a non-member. If, for an exceptional reason, an employee has been granted permission to work by the union, they are not a strikebreaker, but a picketer will write down the employee’s name and working hours.

A strikebreaker works against their colleagues for the benefit of the employer.

Strike committee

The strike committee handles strike-related matters, liaising with the shop stewards and contact persons in the workplaces on strike, among other things. The nature and area of responsibility of the strike committees always depend on the nature of the strike. Strike committees may be regional, local or company-specific.

Strike limits

The central strike committee, i.e. the union’s Executive Committee, sets out the strike limits, in other words the work tasks and workplaces that the strike concerns. The industrial action notice, or strike warning, specifies the work tasks that the strike applies to. These tasks shall not be performed – whether the employee concerned is a union member or not. More detailed negotiations are held locally. Minutes are drawn up of the negotiations, and delivered to the regional office.

Strike warning (industrial action notice)

A strike warning is an advance notification of a pending strike/industrial action. The notice is delivered to the employer and the National Conciliator no later than 14 days before the start of the planned strike. The strike warning specifies the timing (duration), method of implementation, reasons and scope of the industrial action.

Strike/work stoppage

A strike refers to a temporary cessation of work. A strike or a work stoppage means that certain work tasks are not performed for a given period of time. The decision to go on strike is always made by the union’s Executive Committee, meaning that it is an administrative measure and it is binding on the members.

It is the work that is on strike, not the people. An employee’s, public officer’s and office-holder’s employment relationship remains in force during the strike, but no wages or salary is paid. Office-holders or employees included in the strike do not have an obligation to work, and the employer has no right to direct work nor any other authority with respect to the strikers. The employer must not exert any pressure on employees taking part in a union-organised strike.

Restrictions on the right to strike are stipulated in the acts on collective agreements. When there is no valid collective agreement, the law does not impose any restrictions on the types of strike or reasons for them.

A strike is illegal if the Labour Court has adjudged it to be illegal.

Sympathy strike

A sympathy strike refers to a strike which is organised to demonstrate support for the strikers of another sector or location. Sympathy strikes are legal industrial actions, if the requirements concerning advance notifications and formalities are met.

Walkout

A walkout is used for exerting pressure on the employer. The employees cease working and leave the workplace, normally for a relatively short period.