European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Industrial relations in Finland: background summary

  • Trade union membership in Finland is around 75% of the workforce on average. It has been on the increase in 2015-2016 due to conflicts with the government.
  • Finnish unions are occupation-based. There are three main levels: local trade unions, national federations of member local unions, and confederations which are the peak organisations consisting of affiliated federations. Collective agreements covering the whole of Finland are concluded between the federations.
  • A study published by the Ministry of Labour in March 2016 indicates that in 2014, 75.5% of employees in the private sector were covered by central collective agreements (73.9% in 2008), and 100 % in the public sector, so on average in Finland 89.3 % of employees were covered by a central collective agreement.
  • There are also several collective agreements which are company specific i.e. apply just to one company. These are not included in the figures above.
  • Currently, there are three trade union confederations. SAK, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions is a mainly blue-collar confederation with 993,000 members. The second largest is Akava, the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland. It has 597,000 members, mainly in the academic and managerial professions. The Finnish Confederation of Professionals STTK with 540,000 members mostly represent salaried employees and 58 percent of these work in the public sector.
  • There are labour laws, but, except in certain domains (equality, non-discrimination, etc.), collective agreements can include derogations to the law, which applies only in the absence of collective agreement.
  • After some attempts for decentralisation in 2008, nowadays collective bargaining takes place at national level first, then at sectoral level and in the companies. In the present system, the collective agreements signed by SAK and STTK at the national level fix the basic rules for remuneration, annual holidays and working hours, without any possibility at the branch and local level to establish them at a lower level. AKAVA collective agreements give more flexibility.
  • However, the government has asked for the 2016 round of negotiations trade unions and employers to give more flexibility at the company level, in order to adapt to international competition. It is part of a new labour market pact.
  • At the workplace, employees are generally represented by union delegates or, if there are none, by elected officials. The law gives union representatives the right to participate in "cooperation negotiations" in companies and other organisations with over 20 employees (the threshold of staff was 30 employees until 2007).
  • The Act on Administrative Representation gives the personnel the right to take part in the handling of matters that involve company business and the position of personnel on the administrative board, the board of directors or the management group of the company. The representation must be agreed between the company and the personnel. If no agreement can be reached regarding personnel representation, representation nevertheless has to be organised in compliance with the minimum requirements of the Act. The Act is applicable to companies that have at least 150 employees.