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Unions act against work-related targeting and shaming

Helsinki (29.04.2021 - Heikki Jokinen) Targeting, harassment or cyberbullying are an unfortunate reality for many people due to their work. The problem is growing, and the unions are working to help victims both in a practical way and through political action.

Problems occur in many jobs: from supermarket cashier to police and journalists. In 2019,  the Union of Journalists in Finland took an initiative to establish the Journalists’ Support Fund. It gives economic support for journalists who have been subjected to threats, persecution and other forms of harassment.

The media houses and employers associations do also support the fund. It works under the Foundation to Promote Journalistic Culture (Jokes), which is a foundation run by the Journalist Union to administer the journalists’ collective authors’ rights remunerations.

The fund aims to support journalists in situations where help from their employers, union or the authorities is either insufficient or too slow.

Journalists, who have been subject to repeated, prolonged threats, inappropriate pressure, harassment or online abuse as a result of their work can apply for assistance.

This assistance can be provided in a variety of ways depending on needs, including crisis therapy, installing security equipment or investigative work linked to reporting an offense. In the first half year the fund supported four journalists to the tune of 40,000 euro in all.

The fund has also published a guide for journalists on what to do if they find themselves a target of harassment and hate speech.

Need for a better legislation

The work against targeting and shaming has been on the agenda of several unions for many years now. In 2019, Service Union United PAM and the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK, together with certain employers associations, proposed the introduction of a company-specific restraining order. Those working in the hospitality industry are often even the victims of actual  violence as well as threats.

In addition to private persons, companies should be able to seek a restraining order against persons who continuously cause disturbances. It should be similar to a regular restraining order sought by a private person, but in this instance the one seeking the order would be a company.

Akava, the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland demanded in April for a legal amendment to stipulate work related targeting and shaming as a crime.

In March, think-tank Akava Works conducted a survey among Akava members: 7,333 people from 14 Akava unions responded. The result was clear: 74 per cent of those who took part had been subjected to targeting and shaming while doing their job, and a further 70 per cent of respondents supported the idea of criminalisation. Less than ten per cent disagreed.

Of those, who have been subject to targeting, 62 per cent said that inaccurate information about them had been spread, 41 per cent experienced an attempt by another person to inappropriately influence their work-related activities and 36 per cent had been pressured or intimidated by someone outside their work community.

26 per cent had received threats from outside of their work community and 12 per cent had been an indirect victim of targeting or shaming.

Read more:
Violence is often present in service jobs (22.02.2013)