Candidates in the running for SAK presidency

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The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) will soon appoint a new president, as Lauri Ihalainen has confirmed his intention to retire in May 2009. Potential contenders for the job include Lauri Lyly, Head of SAK’s bargaining department, and Ann Selin, Chair of the Service Union United. However, a secretary of the Paper Workers’ Union, Petri Vanhanen, has moved to first place in the rankings, with support from influential industrial and transport unions.

End of an era for Lauri Ihalainen as SAK President

The President of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (Suomen Ammattiliittojen Keskusjärjestö, SAK), Lauri Ihalainen, has confirmed his intention to retire in May 2009. Mr Ihalainen, aged 61 years, stated in a speech to the SAK General Council in November 2008 that the spring of 2009 would be a fitting time for a change of leadership within SAK.

Some 18 years of continuous service have made Mr Ihalainen the longest-serving President in SAK history. Although his term of office as President began on 16 November 1990, he had previously served the organisation in various capacities from 1970 onwards, initially as Youth Secretary and Organisation Secretary, and subsequently as Secretary General.

In his speech to the General Council, Mr Ihalainen stated:

Following up on decisions made at its last Congress, SAK has launched a major project for the future, encompassing strategic work on the foundations, values, missions, aims and operating methods of the movement. There can be no more natural opportunity and challenge for a new president than to direct this work with a view to ensuring that the next Congress in 2011 will be able to decide on policies for progress. Collective bargaining policy is evolving, especially in the field of pay and bonuses, and in terms of the respective roles of individual unions and the national labour confederation. Unions are also restructuring and realigning by business and industrial sector. This progress merely underlines the need for close cooperation between SAK and the trade unions. Globalisation is creating new challenges and pressures towards international collective bargaining, and SAK is expected to take the lead in this area.

Mr Ihalainen is also convinced that SAK will continue to be a vital stakeholder in social and labour market policy, even as Finland’s collective bargaining policies undergo substantial reform.

Three candidates compete for presidency

The new president of SAK will be appointed by the General Council at its meeting on 14−15 May 2009. To date, three names have been put forward as potential contenders for the SAK presidency. These include the head of SAK’s bargaining department, Lauri Lyly, and the Chair of the Service Union United (Palvelualojen ammattiliitto, PAM), Ann Selin. Rather surprisingly, a secretary from the Finnish Paperworkers’ Union (Paperiliitto), Petri Vanhanen, has moved to first place in the rankings, gaining support from influential industrial and transport trade unions.

Meanwhile, Ms Selin has announced her withdrawal from the presidency. By doing so, she aims to avoid the situation where services sector trade unions run against industrial unions. However, both remaining contenders have stated that they would like to see more candidates running for the position.

Pertti Jokivuori, Statistics Finland

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