Helsinki (26.05.2014 - Heikki Jokinen) Jorma Malinen was elected new chairperson of the Trade Union Pro at the weekend. The position became vacant two weeks earlier when the Pro Chairperson Antti Rinne was elected party leader of the Social Democratic Party of Finland.

Trade Union Pro is the largest Finnish private sector union for clerical employees with 130,000 members.

At an extraordinary meeting of the Pro council Malinen was elected by a clear majority. He got 90 votes against 10 votes for Jouko Ahonen. Ahonen is the former chairperson of the Paper Workers' Union.

Malinen has a long career in trade union work behind him. He is the chairperson of the Pro council and also chairs the delegation for the technology industry.

He works at the STX Finland dockyards in Turku. Malinen has been a STX Finland board member for the last 14 years, too.

The new chairperson seeks to redress the balance concerning what he sees as the imparity at local company level bargaining. This is something he considers vitally important. In real terms wage and salary earners have very little to say in local level negotiations, he says. This fuels frustration and the danger of local labour disputes.

"We have to stipulate sufficient sanctions for employers and their unions when they break agreements, as can happen when it comes to mandatory company co-operation negotiations for example. Trade unions incur sanctions for illegal strikes, and this must apply also to employer unions’ illegal actions in local bargaining", Malinen says.

For industrial peace

He also demands that the employer unions bear responsibility for overseeing and ensuring that their member companies abide by labour legislation.

"When we find a balance on these issues, local bargaining will increase and industrial peace will be guaranteed during times when collective agreements are in force."

The outgoing chairperson Antti Rinne is a highly visible figure in trade union world. He challenged the incumbent Social Democratic Party leader, Jutta Urpilainen, with the support of some other trade union leaders.

Jutta Urpilainen, however, also had strong support among many social democratic trade union leaders and activists. After an intense election campaign Rinne won the leadership contest at the party congress by a fairly narrow margin with 257 votes against 243 for Urpilainen.

Jutta Urpilainen is currently the Minister of Finance but will now step down. Antti Rinne is expected to replace her.