What is a strike? What about industrial action?

Industrial action usually occurs in a situation where the trade union representing employees and the employer organization representing employers cannot reach an agreement on the pay and the conditions for work. These issues are agreed on in a collective labour agreement. When the agreement period of the collective labour agreement ends and the negotiations on employees’ pay and other terms will not proceed, the trade union can decide to start industrial action.

After unsuccessful collective bargaining, employees speed up the reaching of their goals and a settlement with industrial action. The most common form of industrial action is a strike, when employees abstain from working. Industrial action and strikes are always the last means to speed up the settlement. A strike is not started on light grounds; it is often preceded by months of unfruitful negotiations.

One form of industrial action is a ban on overtime or changing shifts. In an overtime ban no overtime is done. The change of shifts ban means that shifts are not changed and only the shifts in one’s shift schedule are done.

Expression of political opinion or mass resignation are examples of other industrial action.

What is a lockout?

Industrial action used by the employer is a lockout. In a lockout the work and wage payments of a company or companies are interrupted and the employer prevents employees from coming to the workplace.

What is a legal strike?

A strike is legal, when the collective labour agreement is no longer in effect (a period when no agreement is in force). A strike is also legal when it is not directed to the collective labour agreement or its individual provision. A legal strike requires a two weeks’ notice. The employer and the state conciliator are notified of the start and end time of the strike.

The strike will become illegal when the industrial action is targeted to the collective labour agreement during its validity period.

The right to industrial action is employees’ basic and human right. There is no way anybody can pressure employees participating in industrial action organized by a union.

Person raises hand and signs stop

What is a sympathy strike?

The most common is a strike set by a union in which employees do not perform the duties that are imposed under the strike. A sympathy strike is usually a fixed-term industrial action with the aim to support the industrial action of another agreement in one’s union or that of another union.

Who decides on a strike and prepares it?

A trade union decides on industrial action. Depending on the rules of the union, the decision is made by e.g. the delegate council, the board or a trade union branch. The union decides on the workplaces included in the strike and their local branches, the scope of the strike, its starting time and possibly its duration, if it is a question of a fixed-term strike. In addition, the union decides on jobs included in the strike.

A strike is prepared by the staff of the union and its active members such as shop stewards.

Will you get paid during a strike?

The employer is not obliged to pay wages during industrial action, but the wage arrears already earned and expiring during the strike must be paid. The trade union will pay compensation to members participating in the strike.

How is a strike ended?

The strike ends, when the trade union notifies of its ending. Usually the decision on ending the strike is made after the union gets the pay and terms of employment settled in collective bargaining or alternatively the trade union of the employees and the organization representing employers approve of the state conciliator’s proposal for a settlement. The strike can also be fixed-term and will end at a stated point in time.

Does the employer have to be asked for permission for a strike?

The employer does not have to be asked for permission for a strike. Neither must being on strike result in any sanctions on the employee.  When employees participate in industrial action organized by a union or an association, they must not face any pressure. Follow the communications your union gives on the strike and act according to the instructions.

The right to industrial action is employees’ basic and human right founded on the human rights of the International Labour Organization ILO and the EU Charter.