Helsinki (09.02.1999 - Marjo Ollikainen**) In Daryl Taylor's schedule even finding a couple of hours for an interview isn't easy. This language teacher-translator is also chairperson of the Association for Foreigners in Finland, vice-chairperson of the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations and vice-chairperson of the language teachers' section of Tekeri - the Union of Technical and Specialised Occupations.
At the end of last year Taylor was also asked to join the Executive Board of Tekeri, probably making him the first foreigner ever to serve on the Board of a Finnish trade union.
"Please don't ask!", he retorts when the conversation turns to his working hours. Even for family matters he ought to have more time.
It was 24 August 1986 when Daryl Taylor officially arrived in Finland to stay. He joined Tekeri the very next day.
In Britain his voluntary work had been much more modest: first team captain of the London Central YMCA chess club. Nowadays he no longer has time for his old hobby. "I only play chess with the Finnish authorities".
Taylor's ongoing chess game with the authorities has lasted for more than a decade. Initially as a language teachers' shop steward he argued the case for his colleagues' unemployment benefit all the way to the courts. Since then he has defended the rights of immigrants not only in trade union matters but also in residence and work permit questions. He has even left his mark on the current reform of the Aliens Act.
In his struggles with the authorities, Daryl Taylor has gained a firm grasp of the principles underlying Finnish labour market and immigration policy. The Finnish trade union litany is no longer an obstacle. Next to the dictionaries on his bookshelf there is a collection of labour laws, a handbook of employment, a workplace guide to employment statutes and the 90th Anniversary Compilation of the Confederation of Finnish Trade Unions - SAK.
"I noticed that Finland isn't just a country where individual problems are collectivised to become everyone's problem. There is also a complex and fascinating administrative mechanism which can be used and guided to help us in trade union and other work."
In Taylor's view the main problem of Finland's immigration policy is that immigrant affairs are dispersed across various branches of the administration which neither talk to nor trust one another.
"It's not a particularly healthy situation. The problems lie less in legislation than in actual practice." he points out.
Taylor reserves special criticism for the way in which applicants for work and residence permits are interrogated and administrative decisions are taken.
"Although applicants are interrogated at the start of the process, they are given no chance to be heard afterwards, when a decision is made based on information supplied by a third party. All too frequently we get the impression that officials regard us as fools. Even so, there are always legitimate ways to fight back when public officials behave in an arbitrary manner."
Taylor admits that he has often irritated officials at the Directorate of Immigration., sometimes even deliberately.
"George Bernard Shaw observed that reasonable people adapt themselves to the world where unreasonable people persist in trying to adapt the world to themselves. Therefore all progress depends on unreasonable people. I have been unreasonable now and then, for example when hounding Risto Veijalainen, the former Director of the Centre for Aliens."
It is hard to resist this man with so much to say. Taylor's next objective is to clear away the employer-specific work permit, an institution which he says doesn't even achieve the employment policy purposes for which it was designed.
Daryl Taylor was driven to Finland by a woman. Partly anyway, as he no longer wanted to live in a country ruled by the conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher "where the worship of selfishness was becoming the highest value". This Finn-fan set his sights on a familiar land where "society is largely based on co-operation". The decision to move was also eased by offers of work and a girlfriend in Finland.
In Britain Taylor had been on the verge of joining the Labour Party. Now he is once again seriously thinking about political involvement. He has applied for membership of the Finnish Social Democratic Party, but so far there has been no reply to this.
The SDP certainly shouldn't dally on this one, as a carefully studied copy of the Finnish Centre Party's employment policy reform is lying on Taylor's desk. As a confirmed one-issue obsessionist so far, Taylor says he's considering taking up a second line of campaigning.
So which issue is closer to the heart of this campaigning Brit: Finland's trade union movement or its immigration policy?
"Trade union affairs are also the business of immigrants", he responds.
He definitely has the makings of a politician.
*Originally published in Helsingin Sanomat 03.02.1999
** Marjo Ollikainen works as a journalist for Helsingin Sanomat