Helsinki (19.01.2017 - Heikki Jokinen) A planned merger of four industrial Trade Unions has faced a surprise backlash: the Left Alliance grouping in the Paper Workers' Union announced just before Christmas that they oppose the amalgamation. Three other unions will, however, continue the process towards a possible merger.

The amalgamation of Industrial Union TEAM, the Metal Workers' Union, the Paper Workers' Union and the Woodworkers’ Union has been under discussion for a couple of years now. Up till now preliminary decisions had had unanimous support and various working groups have been hard at work trying to resolve the practical details that need to be ironed out to put this into effect.

But now the Left Alliance group of the Paper Workers' Union say no. They have 30 per cent of the seats in the Union Council against the Social Democrats’ 70 per cent.

The Union President, Petri Vanhala said that the Left Alliance group announcement came as a total surprise to him and was a major disappointment. A decision as important as this should be done unanimously, he added. For this reason the Paper Workers' Union will not continue the merger process.

Timo Byman from the Left Alliance group in the Paper Workers' Union explained to the newspaper Kansan Uutiset the reasons behind the group's decision to say no.

One reason was the size of the Unions. The Metal Workers' Union alone would make up more than half of members in the new amalgamated Union.

Byman said that this would  inevitably lead to a lessening of influence of the paper workers. According to him activists on the factory floor level were very cognizant of the fact that the Union has been in existence for 110 years.

The Paper Workers' Union has 37,000 members. The other three unions have some 238,000 members altogether.

Three Unions continue planning a merger

The three other Unions - the Industrial Union TEAM, the Metal Workers' Union and the Woodworkers’ Union weighed up and considered the new situation in their January meetings. All three decided unanimously to continue the planning and preparation for a three Union merger.

So far the Left Alliance groups in the other tree unions say they support the preparation for amalgamation. They are a minority in all four Unions.

In 2009 the Left Alliance group of the Metal Workers' Union prevented a merger with five other industrial Unions. The Industrial Union TEAM is a result of that industrial union amalgamating project. It was established in 2010 when the Media Union and the Chemical Workers' Union united into one Union.

After the three Unions decision in January to continue the joint project board for the merger also decided to proceed in the planned schedule.

The final report on the merger project and proposals to proceed will not be made until the middle of February 2017. After hearing out their members the unions will make final decisions on the amalgamation in May 2017.

If everything goes well, the first joint Congress of the new union is planned for November 2017 and the new union and a joint unemployment fund would begin their work from the beginning of 2018.

Read also:
Merger of four industrial trade union moves forward (21.12.2016)