Helsinki (08.02.2017 - Heikki Jokinen) Working life is changing and unions must find new ways to work and offer added value to their members. The Union of Journalists in Finland has started up a cooperative for journalistic and other kinds of media work.

A growing part of journalistic work is done on a freelance basis, outside collective agreements. The Union of Journalists in Finland organises freelancers offering many services like legal help, professional career advice and comprehensive education and training.

But many self-employed union members are none too happy with the bureaucracy and demands involved in being an entrepreneur and are looking for other ways to organise their work. Now the Union has come up with a possible answer to that: a cooperative for union members engaged in freelance work.

"Back in 2015 we started to think about what services the Union could provide for self-employed workers. The cooperative was one of the initiatives", says Jussi Salokangas, the Union of Journalists lawyer responsible of freelance issues .

The cooperative which is called Mediakunta got off the ground in January of this year. All those who are members of the Union of Journalists in Finland can join it. The cooperative is also open to others than just freelance members, like students and those doing single freelance jobs.

Mediakunta members organise their own work. They agree independently their own freelance jobs and fees but Mediakunta sends the invoices to their clients.

Thus, members are employed by the cooperative which pays all pension and social security contributions on their behalf. These costs are then deducted from members’ invoices after payment from the client.  

Mediakunta has developed an IT system to make the billing run smoothly and the possibility of sending electronic invoices.

The idea behind the cooperative is not only to spare members from entrepreneurial bureaucracy. "We try to provide work under fair conditions and raise awareness on how a self-employed worker should set a price on his or her work", Jussi Salokangas says.

Another goal is to create networking opportunities for members. As the cooperative is run by its members, it can develop in the way members themselves want.

Help to recruit new members

Jussi Salokangas hopes that the cooperative is also helping to recruit new members to the Union. In the longer run the cooperative might also become a strong actor in the freelance market and help to establish fairer rules within the branch.

There has also been some critical voices in the Union of Journalists in Finland. "When we presented the idea before the Union Council, there were those who questioned whether the Union should be an employer or not and whether it is economically wise."

Nevertheless, interest in the cooperative has been considerable and the launching events were very well attended.

"The cooperative has raised a lot of interest among other unions, especially in Finland. Also, other journalists unions in Europe have been interested in it," Salokangas says.

Similar discussions for a new form of advocacy has been going on in some other unions, too. In November 2016 the Union Council meeting of Service Union United PAM decided to draft a report whether PAM should establish its own temporary work agency.

And last Autumn the Finnish Musicians’ Union opened the G Livelab music club in Helsinki.

"Only one third of our members are covered by collective agreements. Traditional advocacy and collective bargaining are no longer enough to satisfy the needs of our members", explains the Union chairman Ahti Vänttinen as to the reasons behind the decision.

The Union also bought a local radio station, Radio Helsinki. The focus of the programme is on musicians and programmes on music. "We want to strengthen the position of Finnish music and those who make it", Ahti Vänttinen says.