Judge orders Finnair technical staff back to work
Experts question legality of judge’s decision to end strike
Judge Timo Jääskeläinen at the Helsinki District Court handed down a ruling declaring a strike against technical services of the Finnish airline Finnair illegal, and imposing conditional fines of EUR 400,000 on the seven labour unions involved in the action if they refuse to return to work. This adds up to a total of EUR 2.8 million.
Finnair applied for the ruling. The dispute was sparked by Finnair’s plans to shut down or scale back certain activities of its technical staff. The move is expected to eventually lead to the loss of 280 jobs.
Jääskeläinen did not hear arguments from the union side before issuing his decision.
A number of Finnish legal experts said that the judge’s ruling violates the law.
“The court is not allowed to interfere with the overall right to strike, which is a fundamental right. These kinds of matters are for the Labour Court. There are separate rules in labour legislation on procedures for banning unlawful strikes and for the payment of possible damages”, says Antti Jokela, Professor of Procedural Law at the University of Turku.
Jokela feels that the court should have heard arguments from the labour unions before imposing the order.
Also criticising the ruling was Niklas Bruun, Professor of Private Law at the University of Helsinki. Under labour legislation, a union that flouts an obligation for industrial peace can be ordered to pay a fine instead of compensatory damages. The fine must not exceed EUR 29,500.
“In its temporary procedural remedy, in which the other side was not even heard, the District court has imposed a fine that is more than ten times the legal limit. Besides, the decision is very problematic with respect to the right to strike, which is guaranteed under the law”, Bruun says.
“I understand that the industrial action causes serious damage to Finnair. However, new rules cannot be created by a single judge in a precautionary measure.”
Finnair legal affairs director Sami Sarelius says that Finnair’s entire executive group stands behind the decision to apply for the measure.
Sarelius also says that he was not a key decision-maker in the matter.
“Undoubtedly this matter has been carefully researched, and outside experts have been used to brief our people”, Sarelius says.
According to Sarelius the measure was a reaction to pressure from the labour side in a negotiation situation.
He says that it was important for Finnair to put an end to the strike so that more flights would not be cancelled, and so that passengers would not have to suffer.
The Trade Union Pro announced late Wednesday evening that it would suspend its strike. Finnair flights are expected to be flying almost normally on Thursday.
On Thursday, Pro will ask Helsinki District Court to overturn Wednesday’s decision, said the organisation’s chairman Antti Rinne.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finnair Technical Services employees go on strike (6.6.2012)
Disruptions in Finnair Traffic
Information on possible changes to Finnair flights will be updated here