Maybe you are lost in the Finnish labor market, sea of acronyms and trade union lingo, you are not alone – also many native speaking Finns are.
In Finland the workforce is divided into three employee groups: blue collars, salaried employees, and senior salaried employees. In many countries it is common to belong to the trade union if you belong to blue collars. But we unionized senior salaried employees are a Nordic specialty in a global scale. A lot of employees’ benefits in the Finnish labor market are originating from the historical strong presence of trade unions in Finland. As a matter of fact, numerous employee benefits are quite often taken very much granted by many even though these are collectively negotiated by the unions as addendums to the employment law.
Examples of these to name a few: general pay raise, holiday bonus, sick pay, paid parental leave and travel allowance. These addendums to the employment law are negotiated as part of CBAs i.e. collective bargaining agreements between the trade unions and employers’ associations on the other side of the table. CBA negotiations are always based on the previous CBA, and thus the development of employees’ benefits is somewhat cumulative. It is important to belong to a trade union and not just an unemployment fund to maintain the union coverage and thus to be able to negotiate collectively. Only trade unions, not unemployment funds, look after the interests of employees, whether they are in expert or blue collar positions at the workplace.
Shop stewards are then selected locally by the employees to negotiate the applying of these national level CBAs and looking after the compliance of these agreements at the local workplace level – but not only for this. There’s also a saying that shop stewards are also acting as a substitute for an attorney, psychologist, therapist, and a priest. Which is not far from truth after being acting as a shop steward myself. But rest assured, it is super rewarding to assist peers and collectively drive employees’ local common interests.
Nonetheless trade unions like Loimu are not only for the CBAs or an unemployment fund, but we also offer a lot of support in all stages of your career and to gain good professional networks in the field of natural, environmental and forestry sciences. We’ve also recently established the IMAB (International Members Advisory Board) to hear your voice and needs better in the future. Finnish labor market needs you international professionals, and Loimu is there to support you in your whole career journey.
I would like to strongly encourage you to be active and take a chance next time when there is a shop steward election at your workplace to stand as a candidate! Or who knows, to stand as a candidate at the next year’s Loimu council elections? Please bear in mind that it is also possible to establish for example a Loimu membership association for international members and to gain funding for it from Loimu.
Niko Ekholm is the 1st vice chairperson of Loimu’s executive board. He work as a team leader at Thermo Fisher Scientific, where he also serves as the shop steward for the senior salaried employees.