Helsinki (17.07.2001 - Juhani Artto) Wage and salary earners would do badly if there were no trade union movement. This is the view of 81 per cent of people in Finland according to a recent opinion survey. Even a majority of those in positions of influence (64 per cent) and of entrepreneurs (60 per cent) share this view.

Furthermore when asked whether the trade union movement is an unnecessary obstacle to social development 81 per cent of respondents disagree. This includes two-thirds of farmers and of members of the Federation of Finnish Enterprises representing small and medium-sized businesses.

Of all labour market confederations the Confederation of Finnish Trade Unions – SAK is held in the highest esteem, with 71 per cent reporting that they appreciate this organisation much or rather much. 76 per cent of respondents are convinced that SAK has done a good job in safeguarding the interests of the 1.1 million trade union members that it represents. The other two employee confederations, STTK and Akava, can also be quite satisfied with the positive views taken of them by 65 and 60 per cent of respondents respectively.

SAK's work was felt to be "good on the whole" by 80 per cent of respondents. This result clearly exceeds the previous record (73 per cent) achieved last year.

The SAK leadership is considered to be “competent and capable” by 72 per cent of those surveyed, while the organisation is held to be “responsible” by 71 per cent. 63 per cent regard SAK as "democratic" and 56 per cent think that it shows concern for the rights of women. Only one quarter of respondents consider SAK to be too flexible and 18 per cent consider the organisation to be too weak.

SAK has improved its public image concerning its ability to respond to modern challenges compared to the results of a similar survey conducted six years ago, with the share of positive responses on this point jumping from 64 to 78 per cent. The corresponding figures for opinions of the organisation's social responsibility rose from 54 to 71 per cent.

The survey reveals that people in Finland have high expectations of SAK's role in fighting poverty and income differentials, which have increased over a period of five consecutive years. 84 per cent of the population now call on the organisation to work vigorously for more equal income distribution.