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Uniarts Helsinki signed permanent contracts with 80 fixed-term teachers and researchers

The Labour Court decision that was made in December has brought a change to the long-standing tradition of fixed-term teaching positions.

photographer: Veikko Kähkönen

Uniarts Helsinki had cooperation negotiations in February and March 2021, and as a result, the employment relationships of 80 employees in teaching and research positions were updated as permanent. In addition to this, eight persons were offered some other permanent position.

Part of the reason why these permanent contracts were signed was a Labour Court decision made in December 2020 regarding the grounds of the fixed-term nature of the employment relationships of two professors of Uniarts Helsinki. The Labour Court found that the nature of teaching positions in the arts sector did not constitute sufficient grounds for signing fixed-term contracts and found that the employment relationships under review were permanent.

After the Labour Court decision, Uniarts Helsinki launched cooperation negotiations and reviewed the grounds for employment relationships of 186 employees working in teaching and research positions in the total working time system.

Based on the review, most of the fixed-term employment relationships were regarded as permanent when the reason for the fixed-term employment was the nature of teaching positions in the field of arts.

Link between education and the arts sector is important

The Labour Court decision brought a change to the practice of employing teachers and researchers for a fixed-term period, which had been prevalent for decades especially in the fields of fine arts, dance and theatre. The practice has been validated with the notion that art is not created at universities, but in the arts sector. Fixed-term teaching and research positions in the arts have been equated with fixed-term professor of practice positions in scientific universities. These positions are strongly linked to the professional world, and they enable a closer interaction between the ever-changing practices in the field and the education that the university provides.

“As we’re now increasing the number of permanent employees, we will be able to establish a more long-term approach for the university’s development work, which is a valuable change. In addition to continuity, having a vibrant link to the Finnish and international arts sector continues to be of vital importance to us. We’ve had talks with the staff representatives about different ways to maintain an interactive connection with the field also in the future. This can be done by recruiting visiting experts, organising joint productions between students and professional artists, developing teaching in even closer cooperation with the professional field and offering mentoring programmes, for example,” says Rector of Uniarts Helsinki Kaarlo Hildén.

Career system establishes a joint framework

Uniarts Helsinki has taken determined steps to standardise its staff policy already before the changes brought by the Labour Court decision last December. In 2019, the university began the transition to the career system, which aimed at significantly increasing the number of permanent academic staff. The Labour Court decision sped up this change.

In the future, most professor and lecturer positions at Uniarts Helsinki will be permanent. Doctoral students, visiting experts and employees deputising other employees, for example, will continue to have fixed-term employment relationships.

The cooperation negotiations were finalised unanimously on 12 March 2021.