|Trade union activities||Graphical version|
The level of Finnish employees’ unionisation is among the highest in the industrialised world. Approximately 80 per cent of employees belong to a trade union.
Influencing Finnish income policies and other societal issues are the key tasks of Finnish trade unions. In workplaces the trade union movement safeguards the status of employees and their rights.
Trade unions also negotiate collective agreements on pay and other terms of employment. They promote their members’ professional, financial, health, social, educational and cultural interests, rights and freedoms.
Major goals promoted and achieved by the Finnish labour movement include the 1923 Employment Contracts Act, the 1948 Child Allowance Act, the 1961 Employees’ Pensions Act and the 1980 introduction of parental leave.
The values of the international labour movement also include solidarity. Today’s trade union movements call for better treatment of employees in poorer countries and try to influence the side effects of the international economy such as underpay or inhumane working conditions.
In the beginning the international labour movement worked to improve the conditions of broad layers of the population and to promote their political rights. Universal and equal suffrage regardless of gender was also on its agenda.
The roots of Finnish workers’ associations date back to the mid-1880s, the early years of Finland’s industrialisation. The first workers’ associations were established in the 1850s, but it was not until the 1880s that associations became more common among the trades.
In addition to trade unions, citizens are active in other interest groups. For example, agricultural entrepreneurs are members of the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK), which is a major actor and advocate of its members in Finnish society.
The contribution of interest groups helps maintain pluralistic democracy. Through these groups, issues important to their members are brought to the political agenda. Within trade unions member democracy is realised through union conferences and congresses. Trade unions are major political actors in the Finnish society.
One of the purposes of interest groups is to prevent the straining of relations between social partners in the labour market. They facilitate political debate about what should be done in society. At times protest activities are also organised by interest groups. These can include strikes, work stoppages and walkouts.
Interest groups influence legislation as well as other economic and social issues through their representatives. Representatives work in various committees and working groups. They also act as experts in employment-related issues.
When setting the content and objects of advocacy, trade unions and other interest groups monitor changes in their operating environment as well as the objectives and demands emerging from affiliated unions.
Related articles in Kansanvalta.fi:
Labour market organizations
Updated on October 12, 2006