Helsinki (13.04.2003 - Juhani Artto) Present and former trade union members form
a clear majority of the new Finnish Parliament elected in mid-March. Of the 200
seats, at least 120 were won by candidates who are either present or former
members of unions. This is roughly the same proportion of trade union
representation as in the March 1999 election result.
The preponderance of MPs with a union background is hardly surprising, as the
organising rate in Finland is among the highest in the world. Another reason
behind the electoral success of unionised candidates is the strong support given
by national unions and their local branches to their own members.
The smallest of the three main labour confederations, Akava, which mainly
organises the academically qualified, has the largest representation in
Parliament. According to Akava, at least one third of the new MPs are present or
former members of its affiliated unions. 28 of these were teachers before
entering politics. Other academic trades with sizeable representation are
doctors, lawyers and technical specialists.
Finland’s largest employee confederation SAK is also well represented in the
new Parliament. Over 30 MPs are members of an SAK-affiliated union. Many of
these are former shop stewards in large industrial enterprises. The new MP Eero
Heinäluoma was part of the SAK leadership before becoming General Secretary of
the Finnish Social Democratic Party last year. The re-elected social democratic
MP Risto Kuisma is a former President of the Finnish Transport Workers’ Union.
Most of the roughly 120 MPs with trade union background, however, have been
neither leaders nor activists in the union movement. One such MP is Paavo
Lipponen, the social democratic Prime Minister of two Finnish governments
spanning the last eight years.
Of the SAK unions, the Trade Union for the Municipal Sector – KTV has ten MPs
in the new Parliament. The Finnish National Union of State Employees and Special
Services – VAL is represented by nine members. Members of Service Unions United
– PAM won five seats, the Finnish Metalworkers’ Union four seats, the Wood and
Allied Workers' Union three seats and the Finnish Transport Workers' Union one
19 of the MPs elected in March belong to trade unions affiliated to the
second largest employee confederation, STTK. Seven of these MPs are members of
the Union of Health Care and Social Professionals – Tehy.
The high proportion of MPs with personal experience of union membership does
not make Parliament an easy target for trade union lobbying. MPs with a union
background belong to various political parties in the political spectrum and
differ widely in their concepts of government. Union members are also divided
between MPs supporting the governing coalition and those of the opposition
clear majority of Finnish MPs are trade union members, Trade Union News from