Helsinki (19.04.1998 - Juhani Artto) SAK, the largest central Finnish trade union organisation representing 1.1 million members in its affiliated unions, is to speed up computerisation of local union activists.

According to one SAK estimate, 5,000 - 10,000 union members are thinking about buying or renting a home computer before the end of this year. An agreement negotiated by an organisation as big as SAK would give these members a considerable discount and a strong incentive for individual investment decisions. SAK has asked for tenders for a package comprising a multimedia-equipped pentium, printer, modem and Internet connection. The individual rental or purchase agreement will be made between the union member and the equipment supplier.

SAK plans to launch the project in the autumn. Decisions on this are expected soon.

The idea of more rapid computerisation of SAK union activists comes from neighbouring Sweden, where the corresponding organisation LO, covering 2.2 million workers, has been enormously successful in its own project.

The project began last autumn in Sweden, and by mid-March 58,000 PCs had already been installed in activists' homes. For less than 60 US dollars per month the Swedish deal provides union members with a computer, colour printer, Internet connection, application software package, use of a free telephone helpline for one year, life and long-term unemployment insurance and the right to buy the entire package after a three-year rental period for less than 200 US dollars.

The LO agreement gives union members a 30 per cent discount. Another advantage is that for a deal made on such a scale the provider has been especially interested in guaranteeing easy installation of the package. The provider, Hewlett-Packard, claims that its LO package can be set up in eight minutes.

Trade union organisations in Norway plan a similar computerisation project.

LO's success has been so great that in its March 18 edition The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition published a long and enthusiastic feature article on the PC project of the Swedish trade union movement.