Helsinki (03.02.2017 - Heikki Jokinen) "Trade Unions in Europe represent the workers´ voice that must be heard", says Katja Lehto-Komulainen, the new Deputy General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation ETUC.

"The European trade union movement contributes to the change that is urgently needed in the EU. During the crisis workers paid the price. Unemployment and poverty rose. The European Union must be reshaped and reformed into a fairer and more social Europe", she stress.

Katja Lehto-Komulainen began her new work in Brussels in January. She replaces the Swede Veronica Nilsson, who moved to Singapore, where her husband was appointed French Ambassador.

Before moving to Brussels Lehto-Komulainen worked as the Head of International Affairs in the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK. At SAK she served as a lawyer when she began work there in 1997.

Her other work experience includes her role as a Special Advisor to Labour Minister Tarja Filatov and she also held various other positions in the Finnish Ministry of Labour. Lehto-Komulainen holds a Master’s Degree in Law from the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland.

What are the main tasks of ETUC at the moment? "ETUC Congress was held recently, one year back. The Congress decided on a wide range of issues at the ETUC Action Programme until the next ETUC Congress in 2019", Lehto-Komulainen says.

"The Action Programme is very comprehensive. It has got three pillars: 1) A strong economy that serves people; 2) Stronger unions for democratic values and democracy at work; 3) A core of ambitious social standards. The Congress decisions guide the ETUC secretariat in its work."

"The ETUC Executive Committee adopted recently a resolution on the ETUC Platform on the Future of Europe. The ETUC demands that the EU react properly to economic crises, high unemployment and social exclusion. The EU has so far reacted to the crisis solely by focusing on public constraints."

"It is high time for sustainable growth which for us means more investments, quality jobs, fair working conditions and equality in the labour market. The EMU must be combined with strong social rights. We need public investment reinforced. The Stability and Growth Pact should be reformed. The European Social model must be relaunched: stronger labour and social rights. What we also need, is a pay rise. The ETUC will arrange a special campaign during this year."

It is beneficial to learn from each other

What could the Finnish trade union movement learn from other unions in Europe?

"It is very beneficial to be in contact with trade union colleagues in Europe. The ETUC is our common organisation. There are always similar trends in the labour market. We have to share information among ourselves."

It is also beneficial that all the Nordic trade unions can learn from other European countries, Lehto-Komulainen says.

"We have common problems in the Nordic countries and in the rest of the Europe. We can for instance share information on how to influence Country Specific Recommendations during the European Semester."

"We have to be more influential. We can share information on organising. We are the ETUC and we can together make the ETUC more powerful."

Katja Lehto-Komulainen CV in English (pdf)