Ylitalo from PAM proposes negotiations on festival volunteering
Jaana Ylitalo, collective bargaining director at PAM, believes that repeating the same arguments about volunteer work at festivals every summer is not in the interests of the festival organisers. Formal negotiations would be better for everyone. In her recent article, Jaana Paanetoja, Doctor of Laws and docent of labour and social law, suggests that the term “volunteer work” may in some cases be used to obscure the nature of the employment relationship.
Can jobs at festivals be called “volunteering”? This has again been a hot topic this summer. The position of the volunteers has primarily been discussed from the perspective of taxation and the interpretations of the tax officials: for example, whether free festival tickets and food constitute taxable income.
Festivals in Finland are organised in many different ways. Some of them are run by associations in which people committed to a common cause arrange festivals together for no compensation. More problematic cases are ones where a company that may be turning a considerable profit organises an event where most of the staff are treated as volunteers.
“The main question is whether such jobs can genuinely be considered volunteer work, or whether they constitute employment,” says Jaana Ylitalo, collective bargaining director at PAM.
In legitimate volunteering, the work does not constitute employment. This also means that the person doing the work is not entitled to the protections afforded to employees. Legitimate volunteering has no employer, meaning that there is no one obligated to insure the employees for occupational accidents, for example.
“Legitimate volunteer work does not fulfil the criteria of a formal employment relationship which have been set in legislation,” says Docent Jaana Paanetoja.
She has studied modern volunteer work extensively from the perspective of labour law, and has written an article that was recently published on Edilex, the online platform for Finnish legislation and legal publications. According to Paanetoja, volunteer work has spread to new areas in recent years, and the types of work it encompasses have changed.
In her article, Paanetoja emphasises that the platform economy and the new types of volunteering are both trying to reshape the legal framework around work into something other than contractual employment. She points out that this cannot be resolved with agreements or images:
“Solving the question of the legal implications must be done by evaluating whether the criteria of contractual employment are fulfilled in real-life working situations,” Paanetoja states in her article. PAM has previously consulted her for an expert opinion on volunteer work.
PAM’s Ylitalo considers professionally produced festivals important, as they make Finland an appealing and interesting place both for tourists and locals.
“We think that these events should be developed on a foundation that is sustainable for everyone concerned. Shirking employer responsibilities is also a risk for companies, and having this conversation about volunteers every summer is not good for them either,” says Ylitalo.
PAM already proposed to the Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa that its member companies could arrange negotiations on volunteering before this summer. However, the plan got started too late.
“Since the next summer of festivals will come around sooner than we think, we suggest that we could launch negotiations with institutions in the industry in good time regarding how the employment needs of summer festivals can be fulfilled while respecting labour legislation,” proposes Ylitalo.
The article on Edilex is available here (in Finnish).