JHL serves its Swedish
speaking rank and file members in Swedish
JHL (11.10.2012 - Juhani Artto)
According to the latest statistics, 3.2 per cent of JHL's rank and file
members belong to the Swedish speaking minority. Finnish speakers constitute
94.8 per cent and "the others" 2.0 per cent.
JHL's magazine Motiivi outlined in its latest issue how the union serves its
Swedish speaking rank and file members in their mother tongue. One may well
generalize that the service is at least satisfactory or even good which is
not very common in Finland in associations where the language minorities are
What does this mean in practice at the JHL? All of the most important
matters and documents, such as collective agreements, are published also in
Swedish also, says Kauko Ala-Nikula, the head of the communication and
department. And a major part of the union's press releases and letters to
local chapters are translated into Swedish. Motiivi's Swedish language
appendix Motiv and JHL's web site offer also unique Swedish language
At the head office in Helsinki some twenty employees also offer services in
regardless of their own mother tongue. Four regional offices have
Swedish-speaking personnel. Language skills are taken into consideration
especially when recruiting new employees in Southern Finland, the wider
region and Ostrobothnia where most Swedish speakers live.
Within the union there is a task force that prepares proposals for courses
The task force has also often a role in safeguarding otherwise the interests of the
Swedish speaking rank and file members.
Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. The number of
inhabitants whose mother tongue is Swedish has been slowly diminishing but
over five per cent. Finland is widely known as a country where the rights of
a relatively small language minority are fully respected. In other countries
where language and/or ethnic minorities fight for their equal rights it is
quite common that activists refer to Finland as a positive example of how
minority rights can be safeguarded.
For a large trade union, such as JHL, it is clear that it MUST serve its
Swedish speaking minority in their mother tongue. It is not only a question
of minority's rights but also an example of rational behaviour being
exercised by policy makers.
Serving rank and file members of the most significant
minority in their mother tongue helps to recruit new members from the
minority community and to
maintain the motivation necessary to continue union membership.