Academic unions: Work law flexibility amendments do more harm than good

Office work (picture is illustrative).
Office work (picture is illustrative).

Academic trade unions said Wednesday in a statement that flexible working relationships are a threat to employees' well-being and that they need greater stability.

On Thursday, unions representing workers in the Estonian educational sector presented their arguments to the prime minister, the social affairs minister, and the education minister about the proposed changes.

Plans by the social affairs ministry seeking to amend the Employment Contracts Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act are not justified, the unions say, even though the amendments are mainly aimed at young people, who, it is claimed, desire more flexibility in their work place.

Spokesperson for the Academic Trade Union Council Tauri Tampuu said studies show that for young workers stability at work is key, and there is enough flexibility in the employment relationship today.

"Of course, when all the important prerequisites in the workplace are in place, then a greater flexibility would be an added bonus, but in today's situation, where stability is not sufficiently guaranteed, many workers will be hit," Tampuu said, stating the unions' line that more flexibility would bring more problems than it would solve.

Deputy Chair of the same union and vice president of UNIVERSITAS, Ruth Tammeoru, said it was important to create a basic income for researchers, namely a stability fund, to end the "joke" of an indefinite research contract funded by project money. 

There is also a need to reduce the number of engagement and agency contracts where the work actually fulfils the characteristics of an employment relationship (including in higher education and research institutions), she said.

The unions were the Academic Trade Union Council (Akadeemiliste Ametiühingute Nõukogu), UNIVERSITAS, Estonian Education Personel Union (Eesti Haridustöötajate Liit), Estonian Academy of Youth Sciences (Eesti Noorte Teaduste Akadeemia), Estonian Academy of Sciences (Eesti Teaduskoda) and Estonian Trade Union Confederation (Eesti Ametiühingute Keskliit).


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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