Background

For several years the Transport Workers' Union (AKT) has claimed that the lashing and unlashing of bars on container ships in Finnish ports should be performed by its own stevedores. Usually, a vessel's own crew performs the lashing and unlashing of the bars which secure container stacks on deck. This saves time and means that clearing the vessel for a voyage is less dependent on stevedore work. Further, due to costs, port operators have generally been unwilling to take over container bar lashing work.

Facts

The bar lashing dispute first came to a head in January 2013 when AKT threatened to take over the lashing work with its own stevedores. The collective bargaining agreement in force at the time between AKT and the Finnish Port Operators Association (FPOA) obliged both parties to respect the industrial peace. The FPOA considered AKT's action to be an illegal industrial action and a violation of the industrial peace and sued AKT before the Labour Court. The Labour Court held that the threat was an illegal industrial action and imposed a compensatory fine on AKT (TT:2013/13). However, AKT did not honour the Labour Court decision. Instead, it instituted new strikes and boycotts in Finnish ports. The Labour Court again found these to be illegal (TT:2013/15).

Having evidently realised that negotiations with the FPOA would not resolve in its favour, as of September 2014 AKT started directly boycotting selected shipping companies. AKT claimed that the vessels' own crews were not entitled to perform the lashing and unlashing work on board the vessels and that the shipping companies must contract out the lashing work to port operators (despite the fact that they have generally been unwilling to carry out this work).

Decision

The case came before the Labour Court again. AKT claimed that as the boycotts were now targeted at the shipping companies and not the parties to the collective bargaining agreement, the FPOA had no case. The Labour Court dismissed AKT's claim and held that the boycotts had been carried out to put pressure on shipping companies so that they would order bar lashing work from port operators. Because bar lashing work was a contractual matter between the shipping companies and port operators, and because the stevedores had interfered in the port operators' right to supervise and direct the work, AKT had violated the industrial peace (TT:2015/32).

Since this judgment, AKT has presented no further claims and instigated no boycotts with a view to taking over container bar lashing.

For further information on this topic please contact Matti Komonen at Hammarström Puhakka Partners, Attorneys Ltd by telephone (+358 9 474 2207) or email (matti.komonen@hpplaw.fi). The Hammarström Puhakka Partners, Attorneys Ltd website can be accessed at www.hpplaw.fi.

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