Helsinki (15.05.2015 - Heikki Jokinen) A private unemployment fund is tempting Union members away from their unions and join their fund instead. Unions are finding new ways to react.

Traditionally, the unemployment funds in Finland have been connected to trade unions, but since 1992 there has been a private unemployment fund YTK, too. This has caused some confusion among wage and salary earners, as the Fund has been marketing itself aggressively as an alternative to the trade unions and their unemployment funds.

In fact it is nothing of the sort, as it offers no other services than unemployment benefit. It is keen to stress that its fee is lower than the one paid in membership dues to the union - for all its services and the fund combined.

Trade unions are now campaigning to make it clear what exactly is the difference between a union with its broad services including collective bargaining and a private unemployment fund. The allowances i.e. earnings related benefits in all unemployment funds are the same as these are defined by the state.

The board members of YTK fund have been mainly CEOs of big companies, other high level company directors and some active right wing politicians. This Fund now has some 350,000 members.

The YTK Fund annual membership fee must be paid in full, even if a member joins or drops out halfway through the year. This has been an obstacle for many who might wish to change over to a union run fund, as YTK do not pay back the rest of the fee for those leaving in the middle of the year.

To make it smoother for YTK members to join union run funds several union funds now promise to reimburse the rest of the fee when joining the union fund. The union fund will then request the remaining amount from the private fund YTK.

The YTK Fund, however, is refusing to pay the difference. In January the Industrial Union TEAM filed a suit against YTK, claiming that demanding membership fees after one has left the fund is against the law and principles of unemployment insurance.

TEAM chairperson Timo Vallittu believes they will win the case. He also sees it is an important case, which might pave the way for even more unions to begin the practise of reimbursing YTK membership fees for their new fund members.

TEAM has got more than one hundred new members from the YTK Fund since they began the reimbursements. Some other unions have already followed the TEAM line, like Trade Union Pro.

Several local branches of the Metal Workers' Union have also adopted the TEAM practise of reimbursing former YTK members.