It pays off to prepare for different stages of the negotiation process.
1. Employer notification on starting cooperation negotiations
When are cooperation negotiations held?
The law on cooperation in companies is applied to companies with at least 20 employees. Before deciding to reduce its workforce, the employer is required to hold cooperation negotiations. Reducing workforce refers to dismissals, temporary lay-offs and shifts to part-time work due to economic or production-related reasons.
The law on cooperation also requires negotiations on issues other than those related to reducing workforce; however, these instructions will only focus on reduction situations.
The parties to negotiations concerning the reduction of workforce are the employer and, usually, either shop stewards or delegates as representatives of the personnel. Negotiations can also be carried out in a so-called mutual meeting.
When the negotiations only concern one employee
One employee’s dismissal, temporary lay-off or shift to part-time work can be handled between the employer and the employee. In these cases, the employee always has the right to demand that a matter concerning them must be negotiated between their personnel representative and the employer. TEK recommends that a member facing individual negotiations informs their personnel representative about the negotiations and brings their representative to the negotiations.
In practice, cooperation negotiations start with a negotiation proposal drafted by the employer. The employer should issue a written negotiation proposal on launching negotiations and employment procedures at least five calendar days before initiating the negotiations. During this time, the representatives of the personnel/the party to the negotiations have the opportunity to prepare for the negotiations. This time is not added to the actual negotiation time unless otherwise agreed upon in the collective agreement.
If necessary, ask to see the employer’s notification on initiating cooperation negotiations. The notification will state whom the negotiations concern, why the negotiations are being held and what may be expected.
What to do when facing cooperation negotiations?
Make sure you have a personnel representative who will attend the cooperation negotiations.
If possible, discuss the situation with the personnel representative and, together, familiarise yourselves with the information on the grounds for the cooperation process provided in the negotiation proposal. If the information provided by the employer is not sufficient, ask the employer for additional information before starting the negotiations.
If you have any concerns or questions about the negotiation proposal or the initiation of the negotiations, first contact your personnel representative or TEK representatives.
Think about how the situation might affect you. If the negotiations apply to you, think about the possibility of preparing yourself, for example, for temporary lay-off or even dismissal.
2. Carrying out negotiations
The purpose of negotiations
The issues concerning reductions of workforce must be handled in the spirit of cooperation to achieve consensus. Genuine dialogue should occur during the negotiations. The personnel should have a real opportunity to affect the decisions concerning issues decreed in the law on cooperation. This requires that the personnel be given sufficient information and an opportunity to present their opinions, information and experiences.
The realisation of interaction also naturally requires that the negotiations are carried out in proper time so that the personnel representatives can still affect the decision.
Options should be discussed
The matters to be discussed include grounds for the actions, effects, plan of operations or operating principles and options for reducing workforce and for mitigating the consequences for the employees caused by the reductions. As the grounds and effects of the reductions have been clarified, it is also necessary to negotiate on the options for limiting the amount of reduced workforce and on how to mitigate the consequences caused to the employees by the reductions.
The aim of the cooperation procedure should be to minimise the disadvantage caused to the personnel by the reduction of workforce and to find a way to avoid temporary lay-offs and dismissals. The issues handled in the negotiations are, in particular, opportunities for training and relocation and work and working time arrangements. In addition, cooperation negotiations should handle opportunities to mitigate the social and financial harm caused by dismissals, temporary lay-offs and shifts to part-time work, if the reduction of workforce cannot be avoided.
The law on cooperation obligates the employer to negotiate with the employees, but, unfortunately, does not require reaching a mutual understanding on the end result. The employer always has the opportunity to one-sidedly make decisions concerning temporary lay-offs and dismissals.
The minimum time for the negotiations is either 14 days or six weeks. The applied negotiation time depends on the number of those to be dismissed, temporarily laid off or shifted to part-time work and the duration of the temporary lay-off.
14 days: The dismissals, temporary lay-offs or shifts to part-time work considered by the employer concern fewer than ten employees or are temporary lay-offs of a maximum of 90 days and concern a minimum of ten employees.
6 weeks: the employer considers dismissals, shifts to part-time work and temporary lay-offs that are longer than 90 days, which concern at least ten employees.
The employer should, however, make sure that a record is drafted on the negotiations if anyone partaking in the negotiations asks for it. As the record kept in the negotiations has a central purpose later when evaluating the contents of the negotiations and the fulfilment of the negotiation duty, the representative of the personnel/the party to the negotiations should ask that a record is kept.
What should you do?
- Support your own negotiator and provide them with information on, for instance, how things are in the working community.
- If necessary, arrange joint events with the personnel and the negotiator so that everyone is informed on how the negotiations are progressing.
- If dismissal seems possible in your case, find out about any opportunities to transfer to other duties inside the company and prepare for starting your job application process. Update your curriculum vitae and familiarise yourself with the employment situation in your field and potential employers.
- Carry out your duties at least as well as before the cooperation process. Support others.
- The employer may, as early as during the negotiations, generally offer a so-called leaving package for all those willing.
- Think about whether it is a realistic and worthwhile option for you instead of a possible dismissal. Always have the TEK lawyers check the individual package offer before signing the package. Remember that the package will affect unemployment benefit and the employer’s duty of taking back, among other things. Signing the package also nearly always means that the employee gives up all opportunities for contesting a decision when it comes to a termination of employment.