TEAM celebrates 120 years of union work | Ammattiliitto Pro
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TEAM celebrates 120 years of union work

17.7.2014 klo 15:00

August will mark 120 years since the establishment of the first trade union in Finland, Suomen Kirjaltajaliitto. This seminal union represented workers in the printing industry.

Helsinki (17.07.2014 - Heikki Jokinen)

In 2010 its successor Viestintäalan ammattiliitto merged with Kemianliitto, which included workers in various sectors, such as the chemical, rubber, textile and garment industries. This amalgamated union is known as the Industrial Union TEAM. It has some 60,000 members.

Suomen Kirjaltajaliitto was born through an initiative taken by five printers' local trade union chapters. The Helsinki chapter was established already in 1869 which makes it the oldest local trade union chapter in Finland. The first local printers strike took place in Helsinki 1872. After five days of strike the workers got a 15 per cent pay rise.

The national collective agreement for the printing industry was adopted in March 1900. It was the first of its kind in Finland. The agreement was a forerunner in the field of equality; it guaranteed the same working conditions for men and women.

The printers' association in Helsinki was a pioneer in the field of social security. It established an unemployment fund in 1895. It provided support in the event of illness and also to widows and children of deceased workers. In the city of Turku local book printers had established a mutual funeral aid fund back in 1851.

The chemical sector unionised early as well: in 1897 the Footwear Workers’ Union was founded and in 1899 the Tile and Glazed Earthenware Workers’ Union came onto the scene.
The TEAM magazine Intiim is the oldest trade union magazine in Finland. One of its predecessors is the magazine Gutenberg, established by the Helsinki printers' association in 1893.

Result of some 30 union mergers

TEAM will celebrate its 120 year anniversary roots in a variety of ways. The main event will be in held in the Helsinki Workers' House in August. The Union will also organise a celebration cruise on the Baltic Sea which is expected to attract 3,000 union members. Local chapters will organise various events to commemorate the anniversary.

The Labour Museum Werstas in the city of Tampere is hosting (until the end of October) an exhibition ‘Working at the Factory’ dedicated to the TEAM celebration. It describes factory work and tells the story of the trade union movement in Finland.

"During the 120 years there has been many structural changes in industry", said the TEAM chairperson Timo Vallittu at the exhibition’s opening. He estimated that TEAM has had some 30 unions as predecessors.

"Dozens of fields of industry has been fading away and many specialised craft workers have lost their jobs. For example tanners, tile and glazed earthenware workers, saddle makers and weavers and knit garment makers have had their own unions. Now these professions and unions based on these no longer exist."

However, industrial workers have been adapting to all the changes, Vallittu said.

"When some field of industry has been shrinking, the unions have joined together. Down through the years there have been many union amalgamations. These have guaranteed the safeguarding of members' interests."

In spite of the recent negative development in Finnish industry Timo Vallittu is optimistic for the future.

"It has always been the case that new fields have taken the place of the older outmoded ones. I believe it will happen now, too. For example in the chemical and biotechnology sectors there are promising signs."

Read more:

Short about TEAM history (in English)

Exhibitions of the Labour Museum Werstas (in English)