Helsinki (27.05.2011 - Juhani Artto) Akava, the union confederation that represents teachers and a broad spectrum of academic professionals elected a new President on Wednesday. He is Sture Fjäder, 53. He has been an Akava's board member since 1995 and has worked in different capacities for SEFE, The Finnish Association of Business School Graduates, since 1989. Recently, he was named as SEFE's Head of Policy Development.

Akava consists of 34 affiliated unions, totalling 550,000 rank and file members. Membership has more than doubled in last two decades.

Several union leaders put themselves forward as candidates for Akava's number one post. Fjäder received a narrow but clear majority of the votes in the first round of voting. Akava's largest affiliate, the Trade Union of Education in Finland OAJ, put their weight behind Fjäder. The decisive factor in his election may have been Fjäder's reputation as a skilled negotiator and lobbyist with extensive contacts to political parties and other important stakeholders.

In his first speech as Akava's new President he promised to work for a more influential Akava in the future. He is confident that the number of Akava unions' rank and file members can be increased.  At the moment the organizing rate i.e. membership for this sector, is about 70 per cent.

Fjäder wants to ensure Akava remains an independent union confederation and has rejected the merger talks proposal from the union confederation SAK, which has 1.1 million rank and file members in its affiliated unions. 

When asked, what is his message to the present negotiations on the next Government and its program would be, Fjäder mentioned three goals: economic growth, less spending cuts and clear measures to tackle the black or grey economy. If spending cuts cannot be avoided then we must do everything possible to ensure education and youth training schemes are safeguarded as young people represent the future, he says.