Sitra’s study: Some sense into workplace co-operation

Blogs March 18, 2016

Employment law

Sitra’s study, entitled ‘Discussions in Impivaara – A study into the state and development needs of co-operation in the workplace’ was published on 26 January 2016. The core message of the study, as well as public opinion, can be summarised into the following argument: “the original, well-intended purpose of the Co-operation Act – the development of workplace co-operation – has blurred on one hand into Termination Law and on the other hand into a dreaded annual task.”

Having read this argument in the foreword, I felt depressed and wondered what is the news value of this report when the above is common knowledge. In hindsight, I was again too quick to form an opinion, as the author has in fact gained a series of new and practical development suggestions from his interviewees:

  • Development of know-how and an immediate supervisor should be at the centre of all activities (good idea!)

  • Transfer of provisions regarding the reduction of personnel from the Co-operation Act to the Employment Contracts Act

  • Simplify, reduce, and clarify the procedures and basic obligations of the Co-operation Act

  • Extend the scope of the Co-operation Act

  • Make initiative activities part of every day life

  • Transfer of basic provisions relating to the representation of personnel within the organisation into the Co-operation Act

  • Rename the Act

  • Sanctions should be based on breach of principles, not processes (a particularly good idea!)

  • Take new channels of communication into account

As an employment law expert, I am tempted to start a one-woman crusade for better co-operation. I would like to go through organisations, business executive after business executive (and their elected representatives), and declare the gospel of co-operation. I have seen first hand that when companies openly discuss matters with employees and have good co-operation procedures in place, employee confidence will carry the company through difficult times and decisions.

That is why I completely agree with the author that co-operation should concern everyone, including small start-up jobs. This is where genuine co-operation happens, as everyone’s input is visible every day and individuals are not lost in head-count figures. Employees in successful and dynamic companies are often involved in the decision-making and show a high level of commitment. Cause or effect?

It does not matter so much how the equation is implemented, whether it be through collective agreement, co-operation, or something else. Therefore, does it even make sense to have the legislator try to get companies on the straight and narrow? Trying to do so is like pushing on a string.

In the same way one might ask should the legislator budge because the spirit of the Co-operation Act – excuse me, Act on Co-operation within Undertakings – has not been adhered, but the focus has limited to the procedure sections and timelines. Of course not.

If productivity leaps are wanted in Finland, we have to purposefully move forward on all fronts towards goals – just like strategy-committed companies.

“According to reports, confidence is strong within Finnish companies at the level of the individual, but becomes diluted at the organisational level. If workplaces could focus on discussing issues that are perceived as important in the most appropriate way rather than on formalities, the feeling of a shared project and direction could well be strengthened for the benefit of all.” EXACTLY!