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Trade Unions

Union density is high in Finland, with almost three-quarters of employees in unions. Individual unions, which have considerable autonomy, are organised in three confederations, broadly along occupational and educational lines. The three confederations are SAK, STTK and AKAVA. However, there are plansPlans for a wide-ranging union merger across all-three confederations broke down in 2016.

There are 2.2more than two million trade unionists in Finland. Not all of these are in the workforce, as retired people, the unemployed and students can belong to unions and around a quarter of union members are not workingand around a quarter of union members are not working. But even when this is taken into account, a very large proportion of employees are union members. A regularly repeatedThe annual work-life survey, undertaken by Statistics Finland foundas part of the Labour Force Survey, finds that union density was 7473% in 2008.[1] This is higher than the estimates of the ICTWSS database of2017, equivalent to almost 1.6 million union membership, which put union density at 69.0% in 2011.[2] members.[3]

 

A separate study for the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, which was based on union administrative records and published in 2019, produced lower figures.[4] It found that, at the end of 2017, there were a total of 2,043,000 members in the unions. However, of these 630,000 (30.8%), were not employees and were therefore not considered to be represented by the unions in negotiations. The non-employees include pensioners, students, the unemployed and the self-employed. This leaves a total of 1,414,000 employed members whose interests were represented by the union – equivalent to a density figure of 59.4%.

 

There are three trade union confederations in Finland. SAK is the largest with 1,008,040897,870 members (January 20152019).[5] It predominantly organises manual workers, although around a third of its members are non-manual. STTKAKAVA is in second place with some 608,000608,000 members (2015January 2019). It organises graduate employees. STTK, previously the majority of non-manual workers. AKAVA, the third second largest Finnish union confederation, has 588,865 (2015) members and organises graduate employees.is now in third place with around 500,000 members, overwhelmingly non-manual workers. The three confederations work closely together and there has been a co-operation agreement between them since 1978. There is, however, some competition between STTK and AKAVA for graduate employees, with AKAVA showing greater growth., and a number of smaller unions, including the 11,000 strong police union, switched their affiliation from STTK to AKAVA during the ultimately unsuccessful merger discussions in 2015/16 (see below).

 

There are a handful of unions outside the three confederations, including the journalists union SJL.

 

The situation is, however, set to change dramatically through a major trade union merger, which will involve unions from all three confederations (see below).

 

The three confederations are made up of a number of separate affiliated unions, although recent years have seen a number of union mergers. Affiliated unions in the three confederations have their own constitutions and have considerable autonomy.

 

 

SAK has 2218 affiliated unions, primarily organised on an industry basis. The largest SAK affiliate is PAM, which represents workers in the private services sector and has 231,381216,991 members. The next largest is Teollisuusliitto (Industry), created out of a merger between the metal workers’ union, the industry union TEAM and the woodworkers’ union in January 2018, with 211,995 members. JHL, the union for the public and welfare sectors, which has 230,176 members and was created through a merger involving six unions in 2005. The metalworkers’ union with 144,182183,658 members, including its four specialist associated unions, is in third place. Together these three unions account for more than two-thirds (68.3%) of total SAK membership.

 

Affiliated unions have their own constitutions and have considerable negotiating autonomy.

 

 

 

AKAVA with 36 affiliates is organised occupationally. Its largest union, OAJ, which represents teachers, has 118,624, the second largest, TEK with 71,872 members, organises graduate engineers, and the third largest IL with around 70,000 organises professional engineers (all figures for 1 January 2019).[6]

 

STTK has 1815 affiliated unions organised both by occupation and industry. Currently its largest affiliate is the health union TEHY with 160,000 members including 2520,000 students (20152018).[7] The second largest is the Pro union, with 130120,000 members, of whom 11090,000 are in the labour market. (2019).[8] Pro is the result of a merger between unions organising organises non-manual workers in private industrymanufacturing and industrial services and a, including finance union. The third largest STTK union is Pardia,the practical nurses’ union SuPer which organises employees in central government, and has 6090,000 members.[9]

 

AKAVA with 35 affiliates is organised occupationally. Its largest union, OAJ, which represents teachers, has 121,033 members, the second largest, TEK with 72,353 members, organises graduate engineers, and the third largest IL with 70,838, organises professional engineers (all figures for 1 January 2015).

 

Politically, SAK has no formal links to any political party but it is close to the social democratic party the SDP. Overall, the political links have become less important, although the three largest SAK unions provided money to the SDP in the election campaign in 2009, and the Left Alliance (Vasemmistoliitto) was also supported by some SAK unions to a more limited extent. The two other confederations emphasise that they are not party political. However, all three confederations were involved in opposition to some of the policies of the government led by Juha Sipilä, which was in office from 2015 to 2019. In particular they objected to the government’s plans to cut wages in September 2015 and organised stoppages against planned legislation reducing protection against dismissal in 2018.

 

In 2015, it appeared that a major merger between the main Finnish union confederations was in prospect. At the end of 2014 union leaders from 22 separate unions, including the largest affiliates of both SAK and STTK, had announced that they wanted to examine the possibility of creating a new single confederation for all Finland’s unions. This was followed by a meeting, involving delegates from 73 unions, which officially endorsed the move in January 2015. Both SAK and STTK are in favour of a merger, but AKAVA is opposed, although IL, the professional engineers union and the third largest in AKAVA is in favour. ByAnd by February 2015, 44 unions, including some from all three existing confederations had stated that they would participate in efforts to create a new union confederation. The unions set up aA steering committee, composed of representatives of the individual unions and , was set up to work towards the aim is that the creation of a new body should be. However, while SAK and STTK were initially in operation byfavour of a merger, AKAVA remained opposed. Over time, it proved more difficult than originally hoped to overcome the obstacles to a merger, and in 2016, first individual STTK affiliates and then STTK itself withdrew from the process. On 1 June 2016 SAK announced that the merger would not go ahead, although STTK and SAK agreed that they needed to continue closer cooperation.[10]

 

The level of trade union organisation in Finland remains high. UnemploymentThe Statistics Finland work-life surveys show union density broadly stable in recent years, fluctuating between 76% and 73% over the period 2012 to 2017, and essentially unchanged on the 74% union density figure recorded when the statistics began to be collected in the way in 2002. One reason for the high figures is that unemployment insurance is typically obtained through union membership, although it is also possible to be insured through an unemployment fund without being a union member. The Statistics Finland surveyssame statistics show membershipthat the proportion of employees who are just members of unemployment funds increasing but not unions has increased in recent years as an alternative to union membership. The surveys show union density falling slightly, going from 73% to 72% between 1984 and 1990, then rising to 798% in 1997, when the economic crisis of the 1990s made it sensible to be a union member and benefit from increased support during potential periods of unemployment, before falling back to 772002 to 18% in 20032012 and 7421% in 20082017.[11]

 

The study published in 2019, based on administrative records shows a different picture. It found that between 2013, the date of the previous similar survey, and 2017 union density had fallen from 64.5% to 59.4%, a drop of 5.1 percentage points.[12]

 

Unions increasingly recognise that they need to take active steps to recruit those joining the labour market if they are to maintain their strength and influence. Young people are a particular target, and the unions encourage students to join –, as the individual union figures show. AKAVA, for example, is the confederation with the largest proportion of students as members of its affiliated unions. It has more than 100116,000 students in membership, who belong to a special student council AOVA. AKAVA’s membership has increased sharply in recent years, going from 375,000 in 2000 to 588,865 in 2015members 19% of the total.

 

There is a high proportion

Women make up the majority of trade unionists in Finland. Overall, the Statistics Finland figures shows that union density is much higher among women in membership.– at 80% than among men – 66%, which means that 55% of union members are women.  This confirmed by the administrative figures, which show union density among employees to be 66.4% for women and 52.3% for men  Figures from the unionsindividual union confederations show that 46.0% of SAK’s membership is female, 75% of STTK’s and 52.752% of AKAVA’s and 77% of STTK’s (figures for 20152018).[13]

[1] Three decades of working conditions: Findings of Finnish Quality of Work Life Surveys 1977-2008, by Anna-Maija Lehto and Hanna Sutela, 2009

[2] The ICTWSS Database: Database on Institutional Characteristics of Trade Unions, Wage Setting, State Intervention and Social Pacts, in 34 countries between 1960 and 2012, compiled by Jelle Visser, at the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies AIAS, University of Amsterdam, Version 4, April 2013 ( see http://www.uva-aias.net/207 )

[3] Membership in trade unions and unemployment funds, 2002-2017, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, working life barometers, Work-life survey Statistics Finland http://pxnet2.stat.fi/PXWeb/pxweb/en/StatFin/StatFin__tym__tobarom/ (Accessed 28.07.2019)

[4] Palkansaajien järjestäytyminen vuonna 2017 by Lasse Ahtiainen https://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/161433/TEM_10_2019_Palkansaajien%20jarjestaytyminen.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (Accessed 28.07.2019)

[5] This and the other figures for union membership come from the unions’ websites:

SAK: http://www.sak.fi/tama-on-sak/ammattiliitot/jasenmaarat, STTK http://www.sttk.fi/mika-sttk/, , AKAVA https://akava.fi/keita-olemme/jasenliitot/  (All accessed 26.07.2019)

[6] Union websites: OAJ https://www.oaj.fi/oaj/oaj-esittaytyy/oajn-jasenet/ , TEK https://www.tek.fi/fi/tek/vuoden-kohokohdat-ja-vuosikertomus , IL https://www.ilry.fi/yhteystiedot/insinooriliitto-pahkinankuoressa (Accessed 28.07.2019)

[7] http://www.tehy.fi/tehy/ (Accessed 16.04.2015) https://www.tehy.fi/fi/tehy/keita-varten (Accessed 28.07.2019)

[8] http://www.proliitto.fi/tama-on-pro (Accessed 16.04.2015) https://www.proliitto.fi/me-olemme-pro (Accessed 28.07.2019)

[9] http://www.pardia.fi/jasenyys/ (Accessed 16.04.2015) https://www.superliitto.fi/super-info/keita-super-edustaa/ (Accessed 28.07.2019)

[10] http://www.sak.fi/svenska/nyheter/de-har-44-forbunden-vill-grunda-ny-fackcentral-2015-02-12 (Accessed 16.04.2015)  The project for the creation of a new central organisation ends 01.06.2016 https://www.sak.fi/ajankohtaista/uutiset/hanke-uuden-palkansaajakeskusjarjeston-perustamiseksi-paattyy (Accessed 19.12.2018)

[11] Three decades of working conditions: Findings of Finnish Quality of Work Life Surveys 1977-2008, by Anna-Maija Lehto and Hanna Sutela, 2009 Membership in trade unions and unemployment funds, 2002-2017, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, working life barometers, Work-life survey Statistics Finland http://pxnet2.stat.fi/PXWeb/pxweb/en/StatFin/StatFin__tym__tobarom/ (Accessed 28.07.2019)

[12] Palkansaajien järjestäytyminen vuonna 2017 by Lasse Ahtiainen https://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/161433/TEM_10_2019_Palkansaajien%20jarjestaytyminen.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (Accessed 28.07.2019)

[13] See Ibid and ETUC Annual Gender Equality Survey 2019 – 12th edition, by Lionel Fulton and Cinzia Sechi, ETUC, 2019

L. Fulton (2020) National Industrial Relations, an update. Labour Research Department and ETUI (online publication). Online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.