The three union confederations SAK, STTK and Akava together with the Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland SASK met all Finland’s ambassadors at the Annual Meeting of Finnish Heads of Mission to tell about their international trade union and solidarity work. The meeting is organised by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
STTK secretary general Leila Kostiainen addressed the ambassadors to speak about international trade union co-operation and the Union Confederations goals within a European perspective. The international trade union movement is now a stronger player than before, due to the establishment of the International Trade Union Confederation ITUC, she said.
“Alongside the traditional solidarity work there is now also a clear political agenda. To strengthen human and trade union rights globally and guarantee working conditions and pay that secures a decent life all over the world is an important goal. Too low pay and too long working hours distort global competition. We work actively in the ILO and OECD wage and salary earners group to remove these problems.”
Kostiainen also recommended that the ambassadors read the annual ITUC report on Violations on Trade Union Rights when seeking out information on the countries they are accredited to.
Nordic model is worth defending
The Finnish trade union movement wants to support the success of Finnish companies in the global economy, Kostiainen said. “Finland is a well functioning society based on cooperation and mutual trust, with a labour market model supporting growth. We wish for Finnish companies to advance this culture of cooperation in their work around the world.”
A very important reference group for the Finnish trade union movement is the Nordic countries. The Nordic trade unions have been cooperating for more than 40 years now, when a secretariat of Council of Nordic Trade Unions was established. At the moment it has an office staffed by four employees in Stockholm.
“It is worth noticing that the percentage of union members in the Nordic countries is the highest in Europe and in the whole world”, Kostiainen stressed when speaking to the ambassadors. “It is our joint Nordic task to promote and even defend the Nordic labour market model, when necessary.”
Secretary General Leila Kostiainen also spoke about the European trade union movement goal in Europe, to strengthen the social dimension of the European Union. “We are expecting more initiatives from the EU to develop working life. Occupational health, reform of working hours and measures to assist anticipation of structural changes are among examples of issues demanding speedy regulation. The basics right of workers have become subordinated to common market legislation, which we cannot accept.”
Henri Lindholm, chairperson of SASK board and Union Secretary of the Finnish Food Workers’ Union SEL presented the work of SASK. It has several dozen development cooperation projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Helsinki, Heikki Jokinen