Helsinki (21.12.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) Plans for a joining of forces of four industrial trade unions are set to go forward. The Union Councils of all four unions discussed the pros and cons of this at their respective meetings in November and gave the green light for an amalgamation.

The unions behind the proposed amalgamation are the Industrial Union TEAM, Metal Workers' Union, Paper Workers' Union and Woodworkers’ Union. As of the beginning of this year the number of members that would be involved in this new venture has been calculated at 268,500 all told.

There are, however, still many questions to resolve. The principal political questions have been surprisingly easy to discuss. The reasons as to why such an amalgamation makes sense are widely understood in all Unions.

One main reason is the that the national labour market pacts between trade union and employers' confederations seems to be over. Collective bargaining is being conducted more and more at union level.

Another reason is the ongoing - but still very much open - plan to build a so called Finnish Model, where export industry unions would have a major role when setting the scale of pay rises in collective agreements. This would then be followed by other unions.

The newly merged union would be a powerful force at the negotiation table as its members are responsible for most of Finnish industrial exports.

Amalgamation is no shotgun wedding

For practical purposes the unions have set up 11 working groups covering all fields of union work like the economy, statutes, education, advocacy and the unemployment fund. These are now preparing proposals for the practical running of the new big union.

"It is essential that no union is seen to be setting preconditions or prerequisites for the work ahead of us", writes editor in chief Tuomo Lilja at the TEAM magazine Intiim. Preparations for the merger are proceeding in the same good spirit as before, too, he adds.

The membership fee of the new union will be one per cent a member's gross income. The union unemployment fund contribution will come on top of this.

All the existing 42 collective agreements will be retained. There will be three sectors of collective bargaining: the technology sector will have 5 collective agreements, the chemical industry 18 agreements and the forest industry 19 agreements.

The meetings of the Union Councils were all positively in favour of amalgamation. The meetings placed similar emphasis on a number of important issues: modernising trade union work, the need for strengthening advocacy and political influence and looking towards the future.

All the unions are in good organisational and financial shape, the merger is no shotgun wedding. "The industrial unions now amalgamating are financially sound and strong in advocacy. Therefore the decision to form a new major union is not something we are being forced into", writes Kirsi Törmänen-Petman, editor in chief of the Metal Workers' Union magazine Ahjo.

The final report on the merger project and proposals to proceed will be made until the end of January 2017. After listening to their members the unions will make final decisions on the amalgamation in May 2017.

The first joint Congress of the new union is planned for November 2017 and the new union would begin its work from the beginning of 2018.

Read more:

Four industrial unions in talks over amalgamation (12.02.2016)

Export industry unions negotiate new possible model for collective bargaining (30.11.2016)