Public sector unions help immigrant labour integrate
Fipsu (10.11.2010 - Juhani Artto)
The question of immigrants and immigration has become an important issue in
the discussion and debate leading up to the April 2011 parliamentary
And the trade unions have also been doing their bit. They have reacted in a
positive and responsible fashion to what has become an emotive issue subject
to somewhat overheated handling.
Two goals govern the union agenda on immigration and immigrants. Unions have
created a multitude of activities that aim to help and speed up the
integration of immigrant labour into Finnish society and its labour
The first and number one goal is to prevent immigrant employees from
becoming victims of
social dumping. This seems to be particularly acute in the private
catering industries, where thousands of foreign employees have been abused
shady entrepreneurs, according to several studies and reinforced by exposes
in the media.
The risk of social dumping is growing also in the public sector, warns
Jarkko Eloranta, the Vice President of the Union for the Public and Welfare
Sectors. When public services are increasingly subcontracted out to private
companies it becomes more difficult to control how effectively the
collective agreements are being respected, Eloranta claims.
"The recruitment of foreign labour shall not be allowed to create two
markets", insists Fipsu in its statement on the recruitment of foreign
labour. Fipsu is the association for international interest-promotion of
nine public services unions.
"Foreign employees must have the same rights and obligations as the native
population, such as the right to organize and the right to the same pay and
the same working conditions", Fipsu's statement affirms.
Trade unions regard the current legislation as too slack in tackling and
preventing abuse of
foreign employees. The unions have worked hard for more effective
legislation in this area but thus far
have not succeeded in gaining the results they want and deem necessary.
Ralf Sund, the economic policy expert of the union confederation STTK, is
cautiously optimistic that the employer side will become more active in
demanding, together with the unions, more effective control. "Law abiding
companies would benefit from more effective control as the abuse of
immigrant labour weakens their own position in respect of competition", Sund
Courses, network, discussion forum, support people ...
Regardless of the state of the legislation that exists to forestall and
dumping, unions are committed to promoting, at grass-root level,
the integration of employees from an immigrant background. Here are some
of the action taken by unions that organize public sector employees:
Tehy, the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals has formed a
network for immigrant employees living in Finland. Under way is a study on
immigrant labour in the health care sector.
JHL the Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors has some 4,000 rank and
file foreign or immigrant members. They are offered (at the union's
educational institute) courses especially tailored to their needs. The union
its trade union guidebook not only in Finnish but also in Russian, Estonian,
English and Spanish.
OAJ, the Trade Union of Education in Finland has a special organization
for rank and file members with various language and cultural backgrounds.
The organization offers a joint discussion forum for teachers originating
The Federation of Salaried Employees Pardia has trained support persons
for the rank and file members with immigrant background. The support persons
offer them "first aid" and direct the needy people to Pardia's experts or to
the authorities and other relevant sources.
Jyty, the Federation of Public and Private Sector Employees pays attention
to the special needs of its immigrant rank and file members in all of its
interest-promotion and organizing work.
Learning Finnish and/or the other official language Swedish is vital in
finding proper employment and for integrating into the society, the unions