Helsinki (01.06.2021 - Heikki Jokinen) On June 13, Finland will vote in municipal elections. There are 309 municipalities in all. The latter wield considerable power - and money - to organise things like daycare, schools, traffic, public housing, cultural services, sport facilities and - until the upcoming administrative reform - health care, too.
The size of the municipal council depends on the number of inhabitants and varies between 13 and 85 seats. In total, voters will elect some 9,000 councilors. Before the actual election day there is advance voting between 26 May and 8 June in hundreds of locations.
Local elections are important for the trade unions, and especially important for the unions working in the public sector and municipal services. The decisions made in municipal councils can radically affect the terms of employment, for instance whether to outsource services or not.
There are cases where even one single vote in the municipal council has made a major difference. In October 2020, the city of Oulu decided to outsource many public services after voting 33 - 33 in the council. The council president had the casting vote. The unions worked actively against outsourcing.
In general, unions support all their members who are candidates, regardless of their political affiliation. This support is clearly demonstrated in the union web pages presenting the members who are candidates, offering material and training in local decision-making issues, reduced ad prices in the union magazine or the sum of around a couple of hundred euro support to run the campaign.
Most of the unions and all three trade union confederations Akava, SAK and STTK have their own platforms for the elections. They often produce other material, too, regarding their own field of work.
1,200 candidates on the SAK page
SAK, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions, says on its local election page that some 1,200 SAK union members have joined the SAK election page. This gives them the possibility to present their goals and ideas. Candidates can be searched according to municipality, party or union.
All union members are welcomed if they are committed to the core values: dignity at work and humanity, equality and freedom from discrimination as well as standing up for the disadvantaged and inclusion.
Not surprisingly, most of the candidates on the SAK page are Social Democrats, 669 in total. Under the banner of the Left Alliance stand 369 candidates. More surprisingly, the nationalist-conservative populist Finns Party can present 63 candidates, whereas only ten of the candidates stand for the traditional centre-right National Coalition Party.
JHL, the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors encourages its members to be active in the elections, both as candidates and voters. JHL has published for the candidates a separate tool package called Municipal Renovation. It offers guidance on how to build a better municipality.
With 471 candidates presented on the SAK page, JHL members are well represented among candidates, as are those employed by municipalities in general, too.
Tehy, the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland lists 325 members who are candidates, well spread around the country. Trade Union Pro counts 178 candidates on its election page and the Industrial Union 289 on the SAK election page.
But even smaller unions have many members running for councils. The Finnish Electrical Workers Union lists 48 of them on its web page.
PAM campaigns for active voting
The Service Union United PAM runs a campaign to encourage members to vote under the slogan Quit Chewing It - use your vote.
PAM supports the campaign with statistics. In 2017, in the previous local elections only 58.8 per cent of people voted. In particular, those with working class jobs and less education were especially shy when it came to voting. The same was true of young people.
For instance, in the 2017 elections of those between the ages 25 to 34 only 42.9 per cent voted. But: in this group, of those with an academic education 72.1 per cent voted and of those with only a primary education a meager 19.6 per cent actually voted.
Out of the 320 candidates who have put themselves forward as candidates for PAM, 46 per cent are social democrats, 26 per cent come from the Left Alliance and 10 per cent from the Finns Party.
And of all PAM candidates 40 per cent work in the commercial sector, 17 per cent in the hospitality sector, 6 per cent in facility services and 5 per cent in the security sector.