Expressions of Opinion and Work Stoppages

The right to participate in expressions of opinion is guaranteed in the Finnish Constitution. Everyone has the right to organize meetings and demonstrations and to participate in them without permission (Section 13 of the Constitution). This is closely related to the freedom of association, which includes the right to establish an association without permission, to belong to or not to belong to an association, and to participate in the activities of an association. Similarly, the right to professional association and the freedom to organize for the purpose of representing other interests are guaranteed. The regulations concerning labor disputes are specified in detail in, among other things, the Act on the Settlement of Labor Disputes.

Below is a brief summary of the most typical situations of expressions of opinion and labor disputes.

Political expression/protest

A political expression is an action directed towards a political decision-maker such as the government of the country and thus differs from work stoppages and expressions of opinion directed at collective bargaining agreements.

Political expression is legal in Finland. An employee may leave the workplace during working hours or not come to work at all to participate in a political expression directed at a political decision-maker. There is no need to give prior notice of participation in a political expression, but the absence must be reported to the employer as with other legal absences. No wages are paid for the period of absence.

As it is a legal expression of opinion, harmful consequences such as threats of dismissal or other sanctions may not be directed at the employee because of their participation.

If the organization of work at the workplace is not possible due to the absence of employees participating in a political expression, employees on standby must be paid for the time they are without work.

If an employee’s absence is due to participation in a political expression as well as for some other reason, such as illness or annual leave, the so-called time priority principle is followed. According to this principle, the reason for absence is considered to be the one that occurred first, and the obligation to pay wages is determined accordingly.


A strike is the temporary cessation of work. A strike refers to certain work not being done during a certain period. The decision on a strike and its extent is always made by the union’s board, so it is a politically motivated measure that binds its members.

In a strike, it is the work that stops, not the individuals. The employment relationship (employment or official relationship) of a person on strike remains in force during the strike, but no wages are paid. An employee involved in a strike has no obligation to work, and the employer has no right to manage or control the work of the person on strike. The employer may not pressure the trade union to induce participating employees to strike in any way.

Legal work stoppage/strike

When the valid collective agreement expires, the so-called non-agreement period begins. At that time, various labor dispute measures are legal, and the obligation to maintain industrial peace no longer binds the parties. A legal strike can be initiated by the signatory organization of the collective agreement. Advance notice (i.e., strike warning) must be given for a strike.

Illegal work stoppage/strike

The right to strike is fundamentally a right of employees. A strike is illegal if it is carried out while the collective agreement and the obligation to maintain industrial peace are in force, or in violation of the law. A trade union or branch can be fined for an illegal strike. Often when talking about illegal strikes, it involves short marches targeting disagreements at the local level.

The key terminology related to expressions of opinion and labor disputes:

A trade union prohibits its members from applying for employment with a specific employer. The job search ban is a valid reason for refusing work. If you are an unemployed job seeker, you can choose not to apply for work offered by the labor authority that falls within the embargo. There will be no penalty period imposed in this case.

Compensation paid by a trade union for loss of earnings to its members on strike. Strike allowance is applied for according to the rules and guidelines of the union. The amount of strike allowance is determined by the union’s board on a case-by-case basis. The allowance is taxable income.

The union’s board defines the strike boundaries, i.e., what tasks and workplaces the strike concerns. In the strike notice, the work affected by the strike is announced. These tasks are not carried out—regardless of whether the worker is a member of the union or not.

The Strike Committee handles tasks related to the strike, including maintaining contact with shop stewards and contact persons at workplaces affected by the strike. The nature and scope of Strike Committees depend on the nature of the strike. Strike Committees can be regional, local, or workplace-specific.

The local leadership of the strike appoints strike monitors. The task of the strike monitor is to oversee the implementation of the strike. The strike monitor urges individuals attempting to engage in work affected by the strike to leave the workplace.

A strike notice refers to a notification that must be submitted to the National Conciliator and the employer. The notice must be submitted in writing at least 14 days before the planned start of the strike. It specifies the duration, method of implementation, reasons, and scope of the labor dispute.

When both the trade union and the employers’ association reach an agreement on the content of a new collective agreement, a so-called negotiated agreement is reached. The union’s board approves the negotiated agreement. Only after this can it be said that the collective agreement has been formed. Detailed information about the negotiated agreement is not provided before its approval.

A political strike or protest differs from a work stoppage aimed at a collective bargaining agreement. A political strike or expression is legal, and their primary objectives are not related to employment conditions, but rather political or societal goals are pursued through labor disputes and expressions of opinion. An employer cannot prohibit participation in such activities during working hours. It is an acceptable reason for absence.

A scab or strikebreaker refers to a person who engages in strike-breaking activities by performing work that is affected by the strike or by not adhering to the decisions of the union regarding the labor dispute. A scab can also be a member of another trade union or a non-unionized individual who breaks the strike.

The non-agreement period arises when a collective agreement has been terminated, its validity has expired, and negotiations with the employer association have broken down.

A support strike refers to a strike aimed at showing support for workers in another sector or trade union who are on strike. A support strike is a legal labor dispute measure if the necessary advance notice and formal requirements are met.

A collective agreement is a contract between a labor union and an employer organization (or an individual employer) regarding the terms and conditions of employment.

The obligation to maintain industrial peace binds both the employer and the employees when a collective agreement is in force. According to the laws on collective agreements and employment contracts, while a collective agreement is in force, the parties to the agreement are not allowed to engage in labor dispute measures that target the specific collective agreement.

A lockout is a labor dispute measure implemented by the employer. A lockout entails the employer preventing employees from accessing their workplace, suspending their wages, and declaring the workplace closed so that the personnel cannot perform the work affected by the lockout.

A labor dispute is a collective action aimed at exerting pressure on the other negotiating party. Methods of labor dispute include, among others, strikes, overtime bans, shift swapping bans, and job embargoes.

Labor dispute is a means of pressure. It is used, for example, during labor agreement negotiations if an agreement cannot be reached.

The right to engage in labor disputes is within the scope of protection provided by the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the freedom of association.

The right to strike is a universal and recognized fundamental right of workers.

The National Conciliator mediates labor disputes and assists parties in finding a solution to a negotiation deadlock. The National Conciliator summons the parties to negotiate, and both unions must participate.

The National Conciliator hears both parties and makes a conciliation proposal. The conciliation proposal is submitted to the decision-making bodies of the employer’s association and the trade union for consideration. The conciliation proposal must be accepted or rejected as is. The conciliation proposal is confidential for as long as the administrations are considering it.

A walkout is a pressure tactic where employees suspend their work and leave the workplace, usually for a relatively short period of time.

A widespread strike agreed upon by central labor organizations.

During an overtime ban, employees adhere to their regular working hours but refrain from working overtime or additional hours. A shift swapping ban may also be included with an overtime ban. A shift swapping ban means that work is conducted according to the planned work schedules, and shifts are not exchanged at the request of the employer unless there is a justified reason. Overtime work is ceased.