TV1, Mot 17.1.2005
(This is a rough translation, sorry!)
Mattila: Nokia is an excellent employer and generally things are fine there. Therefore it is very strange when one detects serious faults or cases where labour laws are broken.
Everybody knows the richest, biggest and best known
Wallin: I thought that Nokia has a good reputation as an employer.
Hoppania: It’s the favourite company of most IT people.
Williams: I was kind of a Nokiaholic in a way, everything I’d live, breath and you know, I loved the company so much…
Apart from being big and rich, Nokia is known to be an ethical corporation which takes good care of its employees and even gives notice in a decent way.
työsuhde Nokiassa tarjoaa työntekijöillemme juuri niitä asioita, joita he tarvitsevat ja arvostavat eniten, Otamme huomioon…etc
Mattila: Nokia is the best and the worst. By saying it’s the worst, I mean the way it disregards bluntly all labour legislation as has been done during the past years.
Hoppania: During my 7,5 years in Nokia, I started in simple testing, then I got into a team which takes care of xxxxservers and after that there was more and more e-business. Then there was an opportunity to move to msw, meaning Nokia mobile software. And there was this small lab there, maybe 40 servers. My principal taske there was to maintain infrastructure and computer safety, meaning firewalls, etc
At that time Jouni Hoppania was a regular professional staff member at Nokia. Now you can bump into his name in the internet where he has his own site about the difficulties he faced in Nokia.
Hoppania: when I started working in the new organization which was not involved with traditional IT but was rather a separate lab of its own, I found out that they had brutally disregarded Nokia’s guidelines. Since my main responsibility was safety and there were links to intranet from internet which you should not have, and this kind of a system should not exist according to Nokia’s rules in the maintenance of a businessunit. So we had some disagreements in the business unit and this created a, how should I put it, disagreement between a specialist and managers.
Hoppania says he told about the problems to senior managers.
Hoppania: That’s when the problems really started because it was taken as an attack against managers. And then stated the never-ending interrogations by managers. It was constant verbal abuse, constant meetings and interrupting my own meetings and finally I felt I was pushed aside, I was not supposed to communicate with others, not even with my colleagues. And It came to a situation when I could no longer say what I was supposed to do and what not, if I’m not allowed to communicate when they tell me to communicate and I’m supposed to perform but by tasks change constantly or are taken away from me altogether.
If I’ve never had this kind of problems before and I’ve even been receiving praise for work which was much more demanding than this, so then there’s a problem somewhere and it’s up to the managers to figure out what it is. And of course if it’s the manager who is the problem, then nothing happens.
Hoppania got a warning. Then started the official procedure to end his employment. He was given notice due to reasons linked to production & organization needs.
Pekkonen: Hoppania was mistreated. He tried to do something about it and was given notice instead.
Ritvasalo: Another guy was hired a few months before with the same title and same tasks if I’m not mistaken. He had been a temporary worker before. And I can understand if they want to get rid of someone but still in Nokia there would have been other posts suitable for him. They hired people from the outside to do similar tasks which Hoppania had been working on a few years back. I wonder how come Jouni can’t perform in those tasks now if he’s been successful in them earlier.
Pekkonen: Nokia has guidelines on what to do when bullying occurs. But unfortunately the human resources department takes normally the manager’s side.
Pekkonen: I think Nokia is not currently acting according to its own values or social responsibility which it claims to value. And an ethical code.
I have about 1700 employees who I represent (as a trusted man) but even the others represent about 1000 people each. So if you do all that you should do as a trusted man, it’s a full time job.
Pekkonen: So yesterday around 11 my manager called and told me that we’ll have a meeting at 12 where they give me a written warning.
It was no surprise as such since 2 other shop stewards have been threatened within the past week with a warning if they don’t spend at least 80% of their working time on product development, which would in practice meant that they can’t do their duties as shop stewards.
Pekkonen: We’re here in Pasila now to discuss the written warning on refusal to work, given to a shop steward. I assume that Seppä and Ritvasalo have also had problems and threats made, saying that if they don’t cut the time spent on shop steward’s tasks, they’ll get a written warning and will be fired.
Seppä: My manager and his manager told me that if I spend more than 30% on this, I’ll get a written warning.
Mattila: We have to remember that a written warning is an official juridical procedure which is followed by notice, so it’s not just another paper thrown at you.
There are 23.000 employees in Nokia in
Mattila: The employer consciously tries to limit the shop stewards’ possibilities to function. There’s no other possible interpretation.
Seppä: Human resources dept and the whole management somehow oppose this activity.
Mäki: It does not matter how many people you represent, 200 or 2000, they offer you the same amount of time in which you’re supposed to take care of your basic duties as a shop steward.
Mot: How much?
Mäki: 20 percent is what they’re telling to most.
Pekkonen: Nokia thinks that our human resources department takes care of things in such a way that we don’t need shop stewards. Only when they’re going to give notice to large amounts of people, only tghen they think it’s good to have the shop steward around so they don’t need to negociate with 1000 people.
Seppä: Basic information about employees, salaries and such is not given properly.
Mäki: We’ve been trying to get it for years now
Pekkonen: We can’t actually do our duties. Even this year we’ve had people who were laid off last year who the company (according to a special law) should hire back if there’s jobs. But if we don’t have the proper information and we don’t know who have been hired from the outside so we can’t know if this law is being obeyed.
Seppä: Every workplace has a right to a shop steward who can also act as a trusted man.
The problems are well known at the union YTN. They have not been able to make a change.
Kiiras: Nokia’s problems can be devided in three: 1. the shop stewards’ right to have information 2. time, 3. wages
In principle, the employer (Nokia) gives shop stewards tasks with tight normal schedules without considering that they are also shop stewards. And when one knows about the schedules in Nokia…So it’s impossible to make it in 2 separate jobs.
So one would need to have substitutes/stand-ins and the possibility to work as trusted man full time. And this is not happening.
According to a MOT-gallup
poll, trusted men in the next 10 biggest companies in
Mattila: There are things happening in other companies as well, but not as shocking cases as in Nokia, unfortunately.
Kiiras: I’d say that things are pretty well in most companies.
The chairman of lawyers of YTN thinks that Nokia’s way to handle shop stewards is a conscious choice.
Kiiras: I think I’s more or less systematic.
Mot: you said you’ve been trying to contact them but with no effect?
Kiiras: That’s a good way to put it. Many times.
If an employer continues to put pressure like this and does not have the attitude towards shop stewards as partners, as on should regard them, so I think the employees loose their advocate and, and, they loose the possibility to discuss the problems that prevail in the company.
It’s not only the shop stewards who have problems
Mattila: I think the worst cases are the recent cases where persons returning from their maternity leave have been laid off, they’ve been given maybe a month to look for a new job and if they can’t find it then the company starts the process of giving notice. This is clearly against labour laws and it’s completely incomprehensible.
The law gives an employee the right to return from maternity/family leave to his/her previous post. It that’s not possible, then the employee must be offered a similar post, or at least other work which agrees with his/her contract.
Mot: how common are these problems at Nokia?
Kiiras: Especially Nokia has had this kind of problems.
A former Nokia employee who was given notice after her family leave wrote MOT a letter.
(The letter in Finnish can be found at www.yle.fi/mot)
After she became unemployed, the writer got a job at another large company.
Others, too, sometimes have to look for work within Nokia after the organization changes. According to law and Finnish custom it’s the employer’s role to offer work to its employees, not to make them look for it themselves.
Mäki: People are made to apply for their own jobs, or actually the jobs change a bit and then they say that there’s so and so many jobs here
Ritvasalo: It can happen even if you do your job well, even if your performance is fine, still it can happen.
Mot: Do they always get a new job?
Mäki: Not necessarily
Mot: So what happens then?
Mäki: Then they try and kick the person off.
Ritvasalo: A worker should even get some education so that he could be placed to another position. So the fact that they make him look for work and then with some excuse kick him out even though there’s positions available in the company, and even in the same city, so I think this is clearly against the spirit of law.
Mot: How common is it in Nokia that people have to look for work within the organisation?
Kiiras: unfortunately it’s common. It’s a normal practise there.
The work has to be offered. the worker should not have to go around looking for it
Stephen Williams has worked for Nokia since 1996. When
he returned from 2 years stretch in Nokia
Williams: So they said my actual task is to find a new position so the first year, for about the first year, that was all I did.
Everything had been ok in the beginning
Williams: my education was in safety engineering and health technology which is, you know, human factors, and ergonomics, so they hired me as a person to develop the new user interface, they wanted to get actually a person who is not very technical to design something more simple for people to use.
Williams is the inventor in two of Nokia’s patents which are related to SMS function.
Williams: It’s the dictionary in the phone, I found it when I was at a disabled peoples’ conference and this was considered a very big hit for Nokia for people that use the SMSs and make it much easier to use.
After a year spent looking for work, Williams was offered a job which, according to him, had nothing to do with his background.
Williams: I told them that I’m very, I don’t have a software background, software education or experience whatsoever to do this position.
And I asked them what would happen if I would refuse the position and the line manager at the time said that if you do not accept this position we will consider this a refusal of work and we will terminate your employment.
So he statrted in the new position with the title “testing engineer”, without proper education.
Williams: In January I was told that I wasn’t doing my job correctly and I was given some kind of a performance plan that I needed to do to get my standards up to a certain level and that plan was supposed to be for about a month and a half. And during this first week of the plan I had a letter of warning saying that there was several things that I’m doing wrong.
And then I think 2 weeks later I had a written notice, they had to actually walk me out of the building saying I had about 30 minutes to get my things together and walk out of the building. They were escorting me out of the building….
I think that it must have been somebody that, actually didn’t like me for some reason, who had the whole process.
Due to lack of information, Nokia’s shop stewards do knot really know how many of those who are given notice should be entitled to be rehired by Nokia (according to the special law which says that the employer should, for 9 months, take an employer back if he’s been given notice due to economic reasons, if there are suitable positions). The shop stewards don’t know even how many people are kicked out of Nokia in general.
Mattila: If a person is not aware (of his rights) and does not contact the trusted men so I don’t know how many cases there are like that.
According to Nokia, there were 23052 persons working
for the company at the end of September in
Pekkonen: I was present when they started negociating with 1100 people about cutting personnel. It came finally down to 800 persons. So there’s still some 200 people who were not re-employed at Nokia, so I don’t think they obey (this special law).
Seppä: Nokia has its values and ways and traditions so I don’t really know what those traditions and customs are but I guess obeying this (special law) or giving re-education are not among them.
Kiiras: The problems, which I’m not a specialist on, are related to the fact how well Nokia follows up on people who have become unemployed and are looking for work , so do they hire them, since I know that they do hire people from the outside.
Mot: So there’s no sanction…
Kiiras: There’s the sanction if they brake the law so the employee can sue his employer.
But there are not that many court cases against Nokia…
Mattila: People are afraid that they will not get work from anywhere else. that the rumour might go from Nokia to other companies, that this is an unwanted person who should not be hired.
However, YTN is going to take Kari Pekkonen’s case to labour court. Nokia will be sued on violating the rights of a shop steward. A local government body on work safety is investigating Pekkonen’s case as discrimination, and is seeing if the matter should be investigated by the police. Last week this organization got some new information from the shop stewards at Nokia. The letter said, among other things, that Nokia had threatened Pekkonen with interrupting the payment of his salary.
YTN is has also taken Jouni Hoppania’s case to labour court claiming that he was illegally fired. the employers’ union denies the claims. According to Nokia Hoppania’s tasks seized to exist and there was nothing else to offer.
Mattila: If the groud
is economic or production linked, then everybody understands that when there
are 23000 employees in Nokia in
YTN is also taking Stephen Williams’ case to labour court claiming that Nokia had no ground to terminate his employment.
One case currently on against Nokia at
Wallin: I think it was 7110, the first wap phone, so since then I’ve been participating in almost every Nokia so that I’ve designed something for it. As we were such a small group there so you got to do something for each phone.
For the fist 4 year it was a really good employer. IT was tough, no mercy, you’d get as much challenge as you ever wanted.
Then the work load started to bee too much and I think they weren’t listening to us. And then they started to say that I was not performing or coping with my tasks. And they did not understand that my working hours were about double the normal. Then two newest graphic designers resigned, they couldn’t take it any more after some 6 months, they said the work load was just mindless.
Then she received an announcement that her employment had been terminated, she thinks it was done without ground.
Wallin: it was a shock. I was on sick leave and I had told my manager with an sms message that I’m ill and she answered me back asking if I’ve seen a doctor.
according to law, the employer can interpretate the work contract as being terminated if the employee has been away from workplace without giving proper reason for his absence for at least 7 days.
Nokia’s HR department admits, however, that the manager had received an sms about Wallin’s sickness, although no sooner than on the morning of the third day she was off from work.
Wallin: I could
not even leave from
Wallin received an appointment with a medical specialist when he had been off from work for a bit more than a week. Wallin says the doctor had promised to send the medical statement to the employer. Nokia says they received the statement only when the work contract had already terminated.
Wallin: when the sickleave ended and I went to work so I assumed that my employment is continued. I didn’t understand the letter at all. I thought that this will all be ok now that I had all the medical statements and they will understand that I’ve really been sick, if they really had not received them before as they said. But they did not want to discuss the whole thing.
We will know what really happened only in court. Nokia thinks there’s no ground to the case as Wallin had been absent from work for more than 7 days after the sms she sent to her manager without giving ground.
Wallin: maybe they thought that I’ll not take this to court.
Mattila: I’ve been thinking about this and come up with this idea that the employers’ union uses Nokia as a testing ground. They think that Nokia is so successful and appealing as a company that the employer can treat those who are not key personnel as they please.
Kiiras: They don’t brake the law routinely. No, no, you should not portray them like that. You have to remember that this is about young managers, people who do not know what they’re doing, people who make mistakes, so then it sometimes happens that you brake the law. But when we talk about the position of shop stewards, then there’s maybe a bigger thing behind.
About a year ago Jorma Ollila came to the shop stewards’ meeting in
Mattila: He was threatening us, and was downplaying the role of shop stewards.
Seppä: It was said, among other things, that our duty is to take care that no false information gets out. I think there’s quite a bit of other stuff that being a shop steward is about.
Mattila: We have a shop stewards’ meeting in Salo in February, and Ollila will come, at least he said he would. So let’s see what happens there.