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Competence

Already from the start the competence of the Labour Court was enacted to be relatively narrow covering only legal disputes resulting from collective agreements. Under the existing law the Labour Court hears and tries the legal disputes arising out of collective agreements or collective civil servants' agreements or out of the Collective Agreements Act or the Act on Collective Civil-Servant Agreements. A prerequisite for a matter to fall within the competence of the Labour Court is that the specific question involves the competence, validity, contents or extent of a collective agreement or the correct interpretation of a clause in such an agreement. In addition, cases in which it is questioned whether a course of action is in accordance with the collective agreements or Acts mentioned above fall within the competence of the Labour Court. The Labour Court also imposes the sanctions for a breach of these agreements and Acts. The possible sanction to be imposed by the Labour Court is a compensatory fine. In cases where the parties to the collective agreement have agreed on damages for a breach of the agreement the Labour Court can enter a judgment ordering such damages. The Labour Court is not empowered to impose a disciplinary sanction or a criminal sentence.

The maximum amounts of compensatory fines are defined in the Collective Agreements Act and in different acts concerning the civil servants' collective agreements. The maximum amounts of compensatory fines are reviewed every three years to be adjusted for changes in the value of money. In 2003 the maximum fine in the Collective Agreements Act is EUR 25,300. The compensatory fine is payable to the employers' or employees' organization winning the specific case.

Any court of law may request the Labour Court for an opinion in a matter which requires special knowledge in the field of employees' or civil servants' collective agreements. The court of law having requested the opinion is not, however, bound by it.

As from 2001, the Labour Court is entrusted with a new task in the confirmation of the general applicability of collective agreements. Such agreements are accredited this status by a special board, and the decision can be challenged in the Labour Court which makes the final decision.

The Labour Court is not empowered to rule upon disputes arising out of individual employment contracts concluded between an employer and an individual employee or out of the legislation regarding employment relationships.

The territorial competence of the Labour Court covers the whole country. The decision of the Labour Court is final, and there is no ordinary appeal against its decisions to a higher instance. However, the so-called extraordinary means of appeal are available. In this procedure, judgments of the Labour Court may be annulled by the Supreme Court upon demand. Thus far such appeals have not been successful.

 
Published 9.8.2013