Fifteen day fines were recently imposed on representatives of
the Stevedore Worker Associations of Helsinki and Kotka by the
Helsinki and Kymenlaakso District Courts for initiating work
stoppages in breach of the advance notification requirement under
the Act on Conciliation of Labor Conflicts (1962/420) (the
In February 2010, strikes by stevedores in Helsinki and in Kotka
garnered considerable national media attention. In both cities, the
"speed-up strikes" coincided with collective agreement
negotiations. Representatives of the labor organizations provided
notice of the impending work stoppages less than twenty-four hours
before the strikes began.
Under Section 7 of the Act, a party intending to initiate a work
stoppage must provide advance notification. The Act requires that
the party seeking to initiate the stoppage must give notice of the
intended stoppage or extension of ongoing stoppage to the opposing
party and to the Office of the Conciliator General no less than two
weeks prior to commencement of such action.
Upon receiving the labor organizations' notice,
Container-Depot Ltd Oy, Multi-Link Terminals Ltd Oy and
Containerships Ltd Oy—the employers in Helsinki and
Kotka, respectively—requested that the police investigate
the labor organizations' failure to provide timely notification
of work stoppage. In the district courts, the employers joined the
prosecutor's summary penal order and submitted claims for
compensation of monetary damages incurred as a result of the
stoppages. The courts imposed fifteen day fines on each labor
organization (i.e., on the appointed representative of each
organization). The employers' claims were separated from the
criminal charges and are currently pending as civil actions.
The decisions of the Helsinki and Kymenlaakso District Courts
centered around two legal issues. The first issue was whether the
advance notification requirement of Section 7 of the Act, which had
long gone unenforced, was, in effect, a dead letter, lacking legal
force. The intended purpose of Section 7's advance notification
requirement is to ensure a functioning conciliation system for
resolving labor conflicts and to allow employers to plan for
upcoming work stoppages.
The labor organizations argued that they should not incur
penalties for breaching the Section 7 advance notification
requirement. The two-week notification rule has, over time, been
breached repeatedly, without the injured parties ever having
requested that the breaches be investigated by the police.
Employers' failure to seek criminal charges in the past may be
explained by their desire to ensure that the labor market not be
hindered by criminal investigations. However, the district courts
were not persuaded by the labor organizations' argument. The
courts reasoned that that the legislature would have removed the
advance notification requirement when it amended the Act in 2009 if
it had intended that no liability follow a breach of the
requirement. The legislature had not done so and, thus, the Section
7 two-week advance notice requirement, to be complied with under
threat of penalty, remained valid law.
The second issue concerned whether the employers were the proper
plaintiffs in connection with the criminal cases. The labor
organizations argued that the employers were not the correct
plaintiffs. The district courts rejected this submission, reasoning
that the employers' status as plaintiffs followed logically as
the civil law claim for damages was directly tied to the
organizations' criminal failure to give timely
The labor organizations' have appealed the decisions of both
district courts and the cases are now pending before the relevant
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