Helsinki (19.01.2017 - Heikki Jokinen) A planned merger of four industrial Trade Unions has faced a surprise backlash: the Left Alliance grouping in the Paper Workers' Union announced just before Christmas that they oppose the amalgamation. Three other unions will, however, continue the process towards a possible merger.

The amalgamation of Industrial Union TEAM, the Metal Workers' Union, the Paper Workers' Union and the Woodworkers’ Union has been under discussion for a couple of years now. Up till now preliminary decisions had had unanimous support and various working groups have been hard at work trying to resolve the practical details that need to be ironed out to put this into effect.

But now the Left Alliance group of the Paper Workers' Union say no. They have 30 per cent of the seats in the Union Council against the Social Democrats’ 70 per cent.

Helsinki (21.12.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) Plans for a joining of forces of four industrial trade unions are set to go forward. The Union Councils of all four unions discussed the pros and cons of this at their respective meetings in November and gave the green light for an amalgamation.

The unions behind the proposed amalgamation are the Industrial Union TEAM, Metal Workers' Union, Paper Workers' Union and Woodworkers’ Union. As of the beginning of this year the number of members that would be involved in this new venture has been calculated at 268,500 all told.

There are, however, still many questions to resolve. The principal political questions have been surprisingly easy to discuss. The reasons as to why such an amalgamation makes sense are widely understood in all Unions.

JHL (21.12.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) The minimum number of policemen should be defined by law, according to the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL. The Union encourages its members to sign a citizens’ initiative calling for action on this. 

Citizens’ initiative is a system that enables a minimum of 50,000 Finnish citizens of voting age to submit an initiative to Parliament to enact a piece of legislation.

In this case a citizens' initiative would sponsor the idea that the number of policemen should be sufficient to guarantee internal security, effective investigation of crimes and equal treatment for all citizens.

Helsinki (19.12.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) Sauli Väntti is the new President of the Electrical Workers´ Union. And the Union also won a victory in the Labour Court in its long struggle for the rights of the Polish electrical workers at the construction site of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant.

Sauli Väntti has been working at the Union for 21 years. Before being elected President he was in charge of collective bargaining in industry and special branches. Prior to his work for the Union he was employed as a telecommunications fitter.

The Union Council elected Väntti at the end of November when he received 40 votes against the 30 votes cast for the incumbent President Tero Heiniluoma. The latter had been President since May 2016, after Martti Alakoski, the President elected in 2004, stepped down.

JHL (19.12.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL prefers to invest in companies with as small a carbon footprint as possible. But the Union is also looking for a relatively good and secure return on investment.

Over the years JHL has accumulated major assets in terms of investments. The amount now totals 170 million euro, which works out at about 800 euro per member.

It is necessary for a trade union to have some assets in case of possible industrial actions. If a Union is not able to support its striking members, this makes its position weaker at the collective bargaining negotiation table.

JHL (01.12.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) The main goal of JHL in the year 2017 is to guarantee the Union’s ability to carry out its basic tasks effectively, the Union Council decided at its November meeting.

New projects which require major resources are to be scrapped. But existing projects will continue at full steam and the lessons learned from these will be incorporated into essential Union work. 

The reason for this decision is the forthcoming major reform of social welfare and health care services. These services will be transferred from municipalities to the 18 soon to be established autonomous regions. More than 200,000 people will have a new employer by the beginning of 2019.

This process will affect a large number of JHL members. New social welfare and health care structures and employers demand a new kind of action and organising of the Union.

Helsinki (30.11.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) Plans to remodel the Finnish collective bargaining system are still on the table. The basic idea is for pay rises in collective agreements to be linked somehow to those for the export industry.

In March 2016 the Finnish Government approached the labour market confederations with a proposal to reform the way collective bargaining is negotiated in the future. The Government wanted trade unions and employer associations to negotiate collective bargaining separately in each sector, but with a ceiling on pay increases.

This ceiling would be the pay rise negotiated by the export industry unions and employers' associations. Other sectors would remain free to make their own collective agreements but with the proviso that they could not agree on bigger pay rises than that for the export sector.

JHL (18.11.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) JHL came out strongly against proposals to create a low paid work market in Finland. This has been proposed by some politicians and business leaders recently as a way to improve the Finnish economy and create more jobs.

"Low pay will not improve Finnish competitiveness, productivity or employees’ motivation", JHL Council warned at its meeting on 17 November.

JHL Council proposes that the trade union federations begin, as soon as possible, to draft a programme on pay policy and get the Finnish Government on board to support it with its own measures.

Helsinki (14.11.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) It was agreed earlier this year under the national Competitiveness Pact that annual working time would be extended by 24 hours while pay should remain the same.

The pact covers some 90 per cent of Finnish wage and salary earners. Putting the pact into the practise at company level has not been an easy task and it seems quite a few companies do not need their employees to work more than before.

Turja Lehtonen, the Union Secretary of the Finnish Metalworkers' Union says in the newspaper Kansan Uutiset that at company level negotiations aimed at applying the national pact there have been several instances where working hours were not extended.

Helsinki (27.10.2016 - Heikki Jokinen) A majority of Finns would be ready to disclose wages and salaries in order to advance gender equality. In accordance with Finnish legislation individual salaries are not made public.

The figure is from a survey commissioned by the Finnish Confederation of Professionals STTK.

Of those asked in the survey, 58 per cent said they would be ready to remove confidentiality on salaries for the sake of gender equality. Women (64 per cent) were more ready for this than men (51 per cent).