The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL is starting industrial action measures to promote the negotiations concerning the employer model for personal assistance in the collective agreement for personal assistants.
A ban on additional work, overtime and shift swaps, and a job search embargo targeting employers who use the employer model for personal assistance, will start on Wednesday 3 May at 2 pm and last until 6 am on Wednesday 10 May.
The agreement period of the collective agreement for personal assistants (abbreviated as “Heta-tes” in Finnish) ended at the end of April. Negotiations have been conducted since the end of January. The collective agreement for personal assistants is applied to employment relationships where the disabled person themself, or their representative, acts as the assistant’s employer and is a member of Heta (the Union of the Employers of Personal Assistants in Finland).
− Industrial actions have been very rare within personal assistance for persons with disabilities. However, the sector now finds itself in such a serious pay gap in relation to the diverse and demanding work done by the assistants that employees cannot commit themselves to the sector because the earnings level is too low. The work is to a large extent fragmented part-time work. As a result, income issues are driving motivated and knowledgeable assistants away to other assignments. It is high time to get appreciation and acknowledgement for personal assistance work, JHL President Päivi Niemi-Laine argues.
As a rule, assistants’ employment relationships are short, some only a few months long. Assistance users constantly bring up difficulties in personal assistance availability and finding regular assistants. The shortage of assistants is affecting users’ possibilities to get help for their individual needs, such as maintaining hygiene, communicating, leisure-time activities, societal participation or maintaining social relationships.
Proper pay is necessary
In the negotiations between Trade Union JHL and Heta, matters related to the pay system, additional work and overtime have become key issues for JHL.
A new act on services for persons with disabilities was approved last spring. It will enter into force on 1 October 2023. According to JHL, the current pay system of the Heta-tes agreement cannot cope with the demands of the new law.
− The demands of personal assistance work duties are increasing because of an increased number of self-care duties such as using a suction device, handing out medicines, wound care and catheterisation. Our goal is to get the pay system, based on the demands of the work, to take into account and recognise these demanding work duties, JHL’s Senior Bargaining Specialist Laura Tuominen says.
The nature of personal assistance work also includes frequent long work shifts that are carried out by agreement. Long shifts that exceed regular working time are carried out in daily living and in situations where an employer is travelling and an assistant is also needed during the journey.
− In itself, JHL has nothing against working time flexibility which is a part of the nature of the job. However, in the current situation, personal assistants do not get overtime compensation for it. There must be a change to this, Tuominen states.
− Our goal is to get fair collective agreement entries concerning overtime compensation, meaning that they would correspond to the level of the comparison sectors (collective agreement for the private social services sector/health and social services sector). If an employee has to react to the individual needs of a personal assistance user without proper remuneration, the situation is unsustainable, JHL’s Tuominen states.
Senior Bargaining Specialist Laura Tuominen, email@example.com, tel. 050 4092 460
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