Helsinki (04.10.2017 - Heikki Jokinen) Members of Tehy - The Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland have voted in the new Union Council. In November it will elect a new President of the Union.

The 83 member strong Tehy Union Council is elected by direct member ballot for a four year period. There were six lists of candidates, based mainly around political groups, but there were also non-aligned candidates on the lists.

The Social Democratic list Yhdessä eteenpäin (Forward together) won a notable victory this time around. In the previous Union Council which had 63 members it had 17 seats, but in this latest election it managed to win 30 seats in the new 83 member Council. So in real terms it has succeeded in increasing its share of seats on the Union Council from 27 per cent to 36 per cent.

The next biggest group with 19 seats was Sitke, which is close to the Centre Party. The Arvo ammattitaidolle (Respect for professionalism) list which, in the main, attracts those who support the centre-right National Coalition Party, won 13 seats.

The Left Alliance supporters managed to get 7 seats and the Greens 2. Twelve of the Council seats went to the non-aligned Tehyn Vapaat Vaikuttajat list.

Rauno Vesivalo, the Tehy President is retiring and the Union Council will elect a new President. All groups, other than the Greens, have put forward their own candidates, but the election results strongly suggest that the Social Democratic candidate Millariikka Rytkönen is now the odds-on favourite.

The 41 year old midwife also got the biggest personal number of votes in the elections. Rytkönen is currently President of the the Federation of Finnish Midwives, one of the professional organisations Tehy works closely together with.

The Union Council election witnessed a significant reduction in turnout from previous elections. In this election only 25.5 per cent came out to vote whereas in 2013 the figure was 30.4 per cent.

Altogether, there were 547 candidates in the elections. Of those elected, 39 are new members of the Council. The new Council will have 62 women and 21 men.

One big Union since 1982

Tehy was established in 1982 when six health and social care professional organisations merged.

It represents qualified health care professionals, social workers and students of these professions in both the private and public sectors.

The Union has 160,000 members, 92.2 per cent of which are women. The rate of membership in health care fields is over 90 per cent.

About 75 per cent of members work in the municipal sector, with 17 per cent in the private sector. The biggest professional member groups are registered nurses, practical nurses and public health nurses.

Tehy negotiates ten collective agreements: one in the municipal sector, one in state sector and eight in the private sector. Tehy is a member of STTK, the Finnish Confederation of Professionals.

According to Tehy, the average monthly salary of a registered nurse working in the municipal sector is about 3,150 euro, a little bit more than in the private sector.

The Union has been involved in major strikes in 1983 and 1995. In 2007, some 15,000 Tehy members in the public sector threatened to resign over the hardline taken by the employers during collective bargaining.

An agreement was, however, reached before the eleventh hour and Tehy members received a significant pay rise.