Helsinki (15.05.2020 - Heikki Jokinen) Akava, the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland have two candidates standing in the race for next President. Elections will take place in August 2020.

The incumbent President Sture Fjäder is one of the candidates. So far, at least two major Akava unions, the Trade Union of Education in Finland OAJ and the Finnish Business School Graduates have said they are ready to back him.

And two other Akava member unions, Social Science Professionals YKA and the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers have nominated Maria Teikari as a candidate.

Sture Fjäder has led Akava since 2011. When elected in 2011, the congress had four candidates to choose from. Fjäder got 421 votes and the other three managed a sum total of 251 votes altogether.

One of the candidates in 2011, the then Akava director of collective bargaining, Minna Helle, stepped down one day before the congress. She is now the Executive Director of the Technology Industries of Finland.

In 2015, Fjäder was elected for a second term as president, again following a vote. He received 509 votes against 338 votes for Heikki Kauppi, the candidate of the Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland TEK.

Due to a change in the statutes the President was elected again in 2016. This time Fjäder was elected unanimously.

In 2018, some Akava unions put forward a no confidence vote in the President. The Akava Board voted on this and the result was that Sture Fjäder retained their confidence - by a majority vote of 15 to 5 - and that an extraordinary congress was not needed.

The reason for the vote was a comment made by Sture Fjäder in an interview. He had said that it might be possible to consider lower pay for uneducated immigrants.

The unions criticising this stressed that equal pay is a vital and essential principle of the trade union movement and under no circumstances would they ever accept a two tier labour market in Finland.

Fjäder apologised for his comment and stressed that he wanted equal treatment and pay for everyone.

In 1980's, Sture Fjäder (born 1958) was active in municipal politics in the city of Hanko, representing the Swedish People’s Party. His mother tongue is Swedish, the smaller of the two national languages of Finland. Later he joined the National Coalition Party, the leading centre-right party in Finland.

Maria Teikari (born 1987) is currently working as the Service Director at the Social Science Professionals YKA.

In her blog she writes that times like this demand that the trade union movement be able to critically examine its own work and stance. We need good cooperation with other labour market organisations, the media and civil society, she says.

The trade union movement will either flourish or decline together, she writes. Akava needs a stronger voice.

These elections for the post of President are an ideal opportunity to discuss the line and future of Akava, to challenge openly and engage in debate, she says. "Unless there are no elections."

At the moment Fjäder stands a very good chance of re-election. At the beginning of this year, Akava had 36 member unions with 608,811 members. The Trade Union of Education in Finland OAJ, that supports Fjäder, alone has 117,351 of these.