High Court dispenses justice to employees
Helsinki (10.03.2010 - Juhani Artto) In 2000 Fujitsu broke the law on corporate-level mandatory consultation when closing its pc factory in Espoo near Helsinki. This is the final verdict in the decade-long legal process between the company and eleven Finnish trade unions that represented 223 of the 450 dismissed employees.
Lower court decisions had favoured Fujitsu but on Monday the High Court decided the dispute in favour of the employees. The High Court concluded that Fujitsu had made the decision to close the factory prior to corporate mandatory consultation and thus were in breach of the legislation regulating corporate-level cooperation in the companies.
In September 2009 the High Court received the European Court of Justice8217s (ECJ) interpretation concerning the directive on mass dismissals. The ECJ stated that Fujitsu should have consulted with its pc factory employee representatives in Espoo prior to the final corporate-level decision being taken.
The High Court ordered Fujitsu to pay 6 months' salaries and wages to the employees represented in the legal battle by the eleven unions. The total compensation rises to MEUR2.45 plus the interest that has to be paid from May 2001. In addition Fujitsu has to pay all the costs of the legal process.
A majority of the people who will now receive compensation for their illegal treatment are members of the Metalworkers' Union. Their share of the MEUR2.45 is almost MEUR1.44. The second largest share of compensation goes to members of the Union of Salaried Employees TU. They are set to receive over MEUR0.49. Among the eleven unions there are affiliated members from all three union confederations SAK, STTK and Akava.
In their joint communiqué the trade unions state as follows: "The High Court decision proves that the law on corporate-level mandatory consultation has some significance."
The unions believe that the High Court decision has a pre-guiding impact. They hope that employers will, in the future, consider carefully the cost of ignoring the legislation on cooperation and consultation in companies.
A few mainstream media commentators have concluded that the decision may force employers to look for alternatives to the all-too-common practice of simply issuing ‘fait accompli’ decisions to their personnel. The High Court decision may pave the way to genuine consultation -prior to company decisions being taken- between employer and employee representatives, the most optimistic media commentators have hinted.