New union website helps to deal with racism in multicultural workplaces

Workplaces are rapidly becoming more multicultural even here in Finland. As this is a new situation in many places, problems may arise. However, quite often this is down to a lack of skills and experience on how to get along with people from other backgrounds.

In 2021, out of Finland’s total population, 470,000 people had a foreign background. That makes 8.5 per cent of the population. In working life, the share of people with a foreign background is even higher as there are less retired people from this group than in the whole population.

STTK, the Finnish Confederation of Professionals, opened this summer a dedicated website on how to improve fruitful work and activities in multicultural workplaces. The target groups are in particular supervisors and shop stewards, but also people in the workplaces in general.

The website contains, in Finnish and English, a glossary, definitions on what racism is, discussion on how to build cultural competence and how to make practical equality planning. The goal is to help find ways to deal with racism, provide induction and build a safer place to work.

The text in the databank is clear and concrete, with a down-to-earth approach rather than seeking to construct major theroretical frameworks. It is written to be used as a tool.

“Talking about problems is considered difficult in working communities, which is why it is easier to keep your eyes closed. If supervisors and managers have insufficient skills or lack the time to resolve conflicts, it is only natural that prejudices and problems increase,” says STTK President Antti Palola.

In June, STTK published a survey about employees’ attitudes towards multicultural working life and colleagues with foreign backgrounds. It revealed that nearly a third of people of working age have identified problems in their workplace due to cultural differences.

A total of 70 per cent stated that a language barrier had caused difficult situations in their multicultural workplace. Other problems arose from different ways of working and acting in working life (45 per cent), cultural differences (43 per cent) and prejudice (37 per cent). A fifth of all respondents mentioned insufficient induction (24 per cent).

The trade union movement strives to build a good working life for everyone. The work against racism and discrimination is a vital part of this. This is extremely important now, when we have a growing number of Ukrainian refugees entering the workplace in Finland.

“Nevertheless, what is positive is that 83 per cent of all respondents agree that rights in working life – wages, increments and working hours – should be the same for everyone doing the same work. The trade union movement is working hard every day in various sectors to this end”, Palola says.

Heikki Jokinen

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