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JHL wins landmark case in relation to fixed-term employment

JHL (12.01.2012 - Juhani Artto) The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL) in a highly significant case on Wednesday. The dispute concerned the use of fixed-term employment in a job that was financed by the EU's Structural Fund appropriations that were allocated annually to the employer. According to the Supreme Court, this form of financing does not justify the use of fixed-term employment contracts when the tasks involved were of a continuous nature.

A public sector organization (Pirkanmaan ely-keskus) employed the employee concerned in December 2000 who was primarily engaged in handling applications connected to EU funds and national funds providing support to companies. The employment relation continued in practice without interruption until February 2006 and consisted of eight fixed-term employment contracts.

The Supreme Court pointed out that the legislation concerning the EU's Structural Fund nowhere specifies that only fixed-term employees should be employed when it comes to the Fund's allocations. The employer's interpretation was therefore in conflict with the EU Directive on fixed-term employees and the framework agreement on fixed-term employees signed by European employer and trade union organizations, the Supreme Court ruled.

The employer had argued that the employment relation had been cut as the EU technical support appropriations had decreased. But, in fact, neither these appropriations nor the tasks involved had diminished. Instead the tasks had been handed over to another fixed-term employee.

Earlier, lower level courts had come to the same conclusions as the Supreme Court. The employer was ordered to pay the employee EUR 24.000 in respect of pay for the period of notice and by way of compensation for the damage caused to the employee.