Finnish unions take home Breaking Through Award       

28.08.23

Finnish unions take home Breaking Through Award       

UNI Global Union trade union affiliates in Finland have won a Breaking Through Award for building membership and defending collective bargaining in the face of unprecedented attacks on trade union rights in the country.

Annika Rönni-Sällinen, President of UNI affiliate, PAM received the award on behalf of the Finnish unions at UNI’s 6th World Congress in Philadelphia, USA.

The new right-wing populist coalition government in Finland, which came to power in June this year, has unveiled an array of anti-worker plans that include measures to undermine collective bargaining, curtail the right to strike and make it easier to fire employees.

It follows a concerted and alarming effort from major employers in the country to destroy the national sectoral bargaining framework in the country, known as the Nordic model, which is built on social dialogue. This model has led to constructive industrial relations over the years and decades of benefits for workers and employers alike. Consequently, around 60 per cent of workers are members of a union, giving Finland one the highest levels of trade union density in the world.

The counter-attack to uphold the Nordic model has been driven by unions who are organizing new members and making key gains for workers, for example strike action by UNI affiliate PAM led to a 6 per cent pay rise for 200,000 commerce workers.

“We’re proud to receive this award which gives global recognition to the struggles we are facing in Finland. In the last round of collective agreements, we had to show and use our organizational strength by carrying out strikes in several sectors, and long-term organizing work has been the only enabler of these,” said Annika Rönni-Sällinen from PAM. “In recent years, we have increasingly joined forces with other Finnish unions – only together we can be strong enough to defend our existence from political attacks on the trade union movement in Finland and the workers we represent.”

UNI affiliate, PRO, has also used strength in organizing and industrial action to defend its members, including a long-running strike in the ICT sector in 2022.  Commenting on receiving the Breaking through honour, Jorma Malinen, President of PRO union said:

“Thank you for this award, which will galvanize us in our fight against these unacceptable and unlawful attacks on our trade union freedoms. Recruiting new members is not easy but success comes through being flexible in our work, collaborating with shop stewards and a well-planned campaign. By rising together, we will overcome!”

UNI General Secretary Christy Hoffman, said:

“We congratulate our Finnish affiliates who have shown that the best strategy is to go back to basics by growing membership and building power. Their success in organizing in the face of a double-pronged attack from employers and the government is nothing less than inspiring and UNI and its unions worldwide stand by our Finnish affiliates in their fight to stand up for sectoral collective bargaining and workers’ rights.”

UNI Global Union represents more than 20 million workers from over 150 different countries in the fastest growing service sectors in the world. UNI and our affiliates in all regions are driven by the responsibility to ensure these jobs are decent and workers’ rights are protected, including the right to join a union and collective bargaining.

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