In the summer of 2012 the Helsinki District Court accepted an employer’s application and granted a temporary injunction under the penalty of a fine prohibiting certain trade unions to carry out an illegal strike (violation of the industrial peace agreed in the then current relevant collective bargaining agreement and as set out in § 8 of the Act on Collective Bargaining Agreements). That time the strike was prohibited and the temporary injunction granted by the District Court, but the trade unions disputed the ruling, claiming that the Court was not competent to grant the injunction. Nearly four years after these events the Supreme Court in March 2016 sided with the trade unions and ruled after a vote (3/2) that the District Court should not have granted the injunction.
The Supreme Court decided the case based on formal criteria. The Supreme Court noted that a District Court is not competent to declare a strike illegal and prohibit the strike since the Labor Court is solely competent to rule on matters concerning industrial peace. However, the sole sanction available to the Labor Court for breach of industrial peace is fines, and the Labor Court is not competent to prohibit a strike even in case the Labor Court would find a strike to be in breach of the prevailing industrial peace. Since no Court is competent to prohibit a strike, the Supreme Court ruled that no Court is empowered to grant a temporary injunction to prevent a strike and, thus, the District Court should on its own initiative have dismissed the application for a temporary injunction to prohibit an impending strike although the strike violated the prevailing industrial peace.
The learning of the Supreme Court decision is that the sole sanction imposable by the public Courts for a violation of any prevailing industrial peace is fines pursuant to the Act on Collective Bargaining Agreements, which fines, as a matter of fact, are very insignificant.