A total of 68 per cent of Finns agree that a strong trade union movement is a vitally important part of Finnish society, according to a survey commissioned by the newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus.
This question was put to 1,054 Finns at the end of April. Those who agreed fully made up 31 per cent and those who partly agreed accounted for 37 per cent. Those who totally disagreed amounted to only eight per cent and those who partly disagreed 16 per cent.
Not surprisingly, 94 per cent of those voting for social democrats, saw a strong trade union movement as being important for the country. For those voting for Left Alliance the figure was 91 per cent and for Greens 86 per cent.
But 58 per cent of those who vote for the major centre-right National Coalition Party disagreed. However, 40 per cent of their supporters were in favour of the need for a strong union presence. In the Centre Party support for a strong union movement was 56 per cent, a clear majority.
In the countryside 72 per cent viewed the unions as an essential part of Finnish society, in the capital Helsinki region this was 67 per cent.
Tapio Bergholm, a trade union history researcher, says in Maaseudun Tulevaisuus that he is surprised at how the anti-union line has been growing in the National Coalition Party. Due to broad support among salaried employees, the National Coalition Party used to be the second strongest party in the trade unions after the Social Democrats, he says.
Now, the National Coalition Party supporters are more negative towards the unions than those of the Centre Party, which traditionally has a core voter base among agricultural sectors.
Results of the harder line of the National Coalition party vis-à-vis unions can be seen in the April elections of Tehy, the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland.
Social Democrats made a major leap forward in the Tehy elections, from 30 in the 2017 elections to 41 seats now in the 83 seats strong union council. Together with the seven seats of Left Alliance the council now has a left-wing majority.
The list which, in the main, attracts those who support the National Coalition Party, got 10 seats. This is three less than before. Traditionally the National Coalition Party has been strong in Tehy. Two of the former union presidents have even been MP’s for the Party.
Majority prefer collective bargaining
The fresh survey is in line with the survey published in November, commissioned by the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK and replied to by 1,017 people. In this survey, 64 per cent of Finns said that they want the unions to continue to negotiate their pay in the future. Only 17 per cent said that they are ready to negotiate their pay themselves.
It is hardly a surprise that the biggest share of those who are willing to negotiate their pay themselves is among high-income earners or those with an academic education. However, even within these groups a clear majority prefer unions to act on their behalf.
Blue collar workers were the most positive when it comes to having unions conduct collective bargaining, 70 per cent. For salaried employees the figure was almost the same, 69 per cent, and for those working in expert positions 62 per cent.
Even in this survey National Coalition Party supporters were the most negative in terms of a union role in collective bargaining. Only 41 per cent of them supported collective bargaining by unions. In all other parties supporters said they prefer unions and collective bargaining.
Among supporters of the nationalist-conservative Finns Party the figure was 52 per cent. In the Tehy council elections in April, the party had candidates for the first time. They got two seats.
Survey: Finns appreciate their trade unions (20.05.2016)