Six unions demand
TVO action against illegalities
at nuclear power plant
Helsinki (11.06.2012 - Juhani Artto) When the Finnish nuclear power company
TVO speaks about the construction site of its third nuclear power plant OL3,
it sounds as if the company is either a cynical liar or totally ignorant
of the reality on the ground.
On Thursday 7 June the company released a statement insisting on its strict
respect for the legislation, collective agreements and the organizing rights
of the employees. It also pledged its assurance that all of its
and in turn, all their subcontractors, would follow the same principles.
If enforced in practice the entire network of the about 2,400 subcontracting
companies at the construction site should be compliant with the
legislation, collective agreements of a generally binding character and
However, this is far from the case, concerned trade unions claim. On the
day, June 7, six trade unions held a press conference where they declared
their decision to begin industrial action against TVO in a bid to force it
actively defend the legislation, collective agreements and organizing
rights. According to the unions, TVO has not tried to enforce the
principles it claims to follow seriously. It has left room for "innumerable"
where the minimum standards have been broken, often very awkwardly. Talks in
recent months with TVO have not led to any real improvement in working
conditions at the construction site.
"Employers are not paying employees what they are supposed to be paying them
according to the Finnish collective agreements and are not even familiar
the agreements", the unions accuse. Wages have not always been even
half of the minimum wage as set out in the collective agreements and
this huge project.
"Employers are in serious breach of the rules governing working hours and
have sought to interfere with union
organizing rights. Even threats of violence have been used", the unions say,
adding to its list of grievances and accusations. Dozens of Polish
electricians who had joined the Finnish Electrical Workers' Union, have
since been sent home by their Polish employer.
The action against TVO may begin within a matter of weeks or months, Antti
President of the salaried employees union Pro said. But it is still too
early to outline the forms of possible industrial action, added Riku Aalto,
the President of the Metalworkers' Union. "TVO knows what we mean by
possible industrial action", he went on.
Currently, about 4,000 people work at the OL3 construction site. Since the
beginning of the work some 25,000 people have worked at the site. Most
have been foreigners employed by foreign companies. The organizing rate - or
union membership - is
low. And under these circumstances organizing industrial action would
more difficult than it would be normally.
In addition to Pro and the Metalworkers' Union, four other unions are
involved in the dispute. They are the Electrical Workers' Union, the
Construction Workers' Union, the Finnish Engineers' Association and the
Union of Professional Engineers.
A consortium formed by the French company Areva and the German company
deliver the unit on a fixed-price turnkey agreement. The project is well
over schedule. Originally it was planned to produce electricity from 2009.
According to the latest estimate, electricity production will not begin
before 2014. The
planned cost of EUR 3 billion has probably now risen to over EUR 5 billion.