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Three industrial unions are deliberating on how to intensify cooperation

5.12.2014 11:55
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The push towards deeper trade union cooperation is clearly evident at union level also. Three major industrial unions are looking at ways to form closer cooperation.
 

Helsinki (Heikki Jokinen - 04.12.2014)

The three unions – Paper Workers' Union, Metal Workers' Union and Industrial Union TEAM – organised a joint seminar in November to consider their options.

The threats facing all unions are pretty much the same: the sinking number of industrial jobs in Finland, the growing power of employers’ organisations and the diminishing share of industrial unions in the trade union confederations.

A very special case is the private unemployment fund YTK. It now has some 330 000 members. Most of their current membership have defected from the unions they had been members of and the union unemployment funds in favour of the private one.

In Finland unemployment funds are usually run by the unions. YTK is marketing itself aggressively as an alternative to the unions, when it is in fact nothing of the sort, as it offers no other services than unemployment benefit.

Six industrial trade unions tried to create one big union some years ago. However, this endeaveour came to an end in 2009 without success, mainly due to opposition from the Left Alliance group in the Metal Workers' Union. Now they are more positive towards broader cooperation.

And in 2010 TEAM was born after the merger of the Chemical Workers’ Union and the Media Union.

The seminar decided to set up a working party to draft a report on how to intensify cooperation. It will deliver its report in spring 2015. It will then be evaluated in a similar meeting as the one being held now.

There are many possibilities and union amalgamation is not at all the only one. All unions were open to new ideas and courses of action. The main goal is how to defend members' interests in the best possible way.

TEAM chairperson Timo Vallittu stressed in the seminar that the employers are consolidating their own power. He sees it as likely that the major industrial employers' organisations will merge in the near future.

Petri Vanhala, chairperson of the Paper Workers' Union saw the seminar as something exceptional for his union. Never before has it been thinking so closely about its own future together with other unions, he said.

Chairperson of the Metal Workers' Union, Riku Aalto hoped that everyone will be able to look to the future of the trade union movement.

”If we do not do anything, nothing will change. We all have to ask ourselves whether there is something new we can do.”

The three unions represent 60 per cent of the Finnish export industry. The Metal Workers' Union has 145 000 members, TEAM 57 000 and The Paper Workers' Union 38 000.

In November several union leaders also met to discuss whether to establish a new trade union confederation to replace the existing ones. This is still under consideration.

Read also:

Road opens up towards new trade union confederation (28.11.2014)