19.12.2023 | News, SAVALnews
Continuous dialogue was the most essential change made to the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings.
Now that the current Act on Co-operation within Undertakings has been in effect for nearly two years, companies with a minimum of 20 employees have gained some experience in the legislative reform. At least they should, as continuous dialogue described in Chapter 2 of the Act must be carried out even when a company has no major needs for change.
Continuous dialogue was the most essential change made to the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings. Thus, it is somewhat surprising that our employment advice services have received hardly any contacts or questions concerning the matter. According to the Act, in order to improve the activities of a company or community as well as to develop a work community, regular dialogue between the employer and employee representatives shall be carried out in the workplace on matters that fall within the scope of the Act. The purpose of continuous dialogue is to promote sufficient and timely communication between the employer and employees as well as to give employees the opportunity to exert influence in matters involving their work, working conditions or position.
Continuous dialogue is carried out in meetings between the employer and an employee representative. The employer is responsible for the meeting arrangements. According to the Act, the meeting must take place at least once per quarter or, if the number of employees working for the employer is under 30, twice a year. The employer and employee representative may, however, agree upon another way of carrying out the dialogue, as long as the objective of the dialogue is achieved. It would be interesting to hear how this matter has been put into practice in companies.
If no one has been chosen to represent the employees, the employer can meet the requirement for the dialogue in a common event organised at least once a year.
Change negotiations refer to negotiations concerning the reduction of personnel or, for instance, changes to be made in work duties, working methods or work location. The questions presented to the employment advice services with regard to the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings continue to mostly concern negotiations concerning actions planned by the employer. These actions may lead to the permanent or temporary lay-off of one or more employees, shifting employees to part-time work or a unilateral change to an essential condition of an employment contract. When it comes to these negotiations, the Act remained almost unchanged. The most apparent change, of course, is that negotiations are now called change negotiations instead of co-determination negotiations (at least officially, old habits don’t change easily).
However, it should be kept in mind that the employee representative or employee taking part in change negotiations has the right to make suggestions and propose alternative solutions in writing to be discussed during the change negotiations. A proposal or an alternative solution should be presented well in advance before the meeting in which the matter is handled. An important improvement in this respect is that if the employer does not find the proposal or alternative solution appropriate or feasible, they are required, during the negotiations, to give a written account of the grounds for their point of view. Thus, it is not possible for the employer to reject the matter offhand but they must contemplate the proposal so that they can give a justified, written response. Whether or not this has actually helped the negotiators remains an important and interesting question.
Continuous dialogue is not a threat but an opportunity. But how has it been implemented in companies? Or, has it been implemented? We posed the following questions to employee representatives working in the technology industry.
Dialogue is carried out in our company.
Before the Act was amended, we had a Consultative Committee and Administrative Representative Body. The Consultative Committee handled issues related to employee benefits as well as matters such as service awards, company cars and the benefit concerning eyeglass lenses. The Administrative Representative Body handled the financial data and the outlook for the future of the company.
I was a member of the Administrative Representative Body that was changed into an Operational and Development Body along with the amended Act. After the Act was amended , the Operational and Development Body has been more interactive. Instead of the management reading text from the same slides that are communicated in connection with the announcement of the company's result, the facts behind the figures have now been explained to some extent, as well as the future outlook of the company.
We can, at least, discuss employee benefits and receive some indication of the future.
We are now in the process of having the third round of change negotiations this year so, unfortunately, we have not been able to affect the future plans of the company through dialogue. The plans have been drawn up by the employer alone and discussed later during the change negotiations.
Author: Jaana Liimatainen, Labour Market Lawyer at ASIA
The article has been published on ASIA membership magazine 4/2023
Employment related legal services for ASIA members
The new Act on Co-operation