Public sector trade unions plan merger

Six Finnish public sector trade unions have decided to merge to form a single organisation with 250,000 members at the beginning of 2006, with the aim of achieving greater bargaining power. The merger is part of a wider trend towards consolidation among both trade unions and employers' organisations.

Six public sector trade unions launched a merger process in spring 2003, which has since proceeded to a tight schedule. The new merged organisation should be in operation at the beginning of 2006. The unions involved are

  • the Trade Union for the Municipal Sector (Kunta-alan ammattiliitto, KTV);
  • the Finnish National Union of State Employees and Special Services (Valtion ja erityispalvelujen ammattiliitto, VAL);
  • the Organisation of State Employees (Valtion yhteisjärjestö, VTY);
  • the Finnish Customs Officers' Union (Tulliliitto);
  • the Finnish Prison Officers' Union (Vankilavirkailijoiden liitto); and
  • the Coastguard Union (Merivartioliitto).

All six unions are members of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (Suomen Ammattiliittojen Keskusjärjestö, SAK). They have a joint membership of about 250,000, so the new organisation will be one of the largest unions in Finland. The largest of the merging unions is KTV, which has over 200,000 members, mainly health and social service workers, with almost 73% of all members being women. This means that membership of the new organisation will be female-dominated.

The participating unions believe that a stronger union for public sector workers is needed because the collective bargaining process has become more complicated over time time due to privatisation and outsourcing of public services. New service-provision concepts have changed the whole operating environment of the public sector. It is therefore seen as necessary for public sector unions to reorganise their structure and operations. The objective of the merger is to obtain a stronger negotiating position in various subsectors and at different levels of bargaining, especially in the private welfare services sector. The idea is to combine the unions’ resources, thus giving them greater weight in society and increasing their power to promote members’ interests.

There have been several mergers of trade unions during recent years. In January 2001, the country's second-largest union was formed by the merger of four (blue-collar) service sector unions affiliated to SAK, to create Service Unions United (Palvelualojen Ammattiliitto, PAM) (FI0101172N). In May 2001, a number of member unions of the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees (Toimihenkilökeskusjärjestö, STTK) - the Union of Technical Employees (Teknisten Liitto, TL), the Union of Salaried Employees (Suomen Teollisuustoimihenkilöiden Liitto, STL) and the Swedish Association of Technicians and Foremen (Svenska Tekniska Funktionärsförbundet, STAF) - merged to form the Union of Salaried Employees (Toimihenkilöunioni, TU). This new white-collar union, with 130,000 members, is now the country's fourth-largest union and STTK's largest affiliate (FI0106189N). Even a merger between the SAK and STTK confederations has been under discussion from time to time.

Employers' organisations are also involved in merger activity. The two main central employers' bodies - the Confederation of Finnish Industry and Employers (Teollisuuden ja Työnantajain Keskusliitto, TT) and the Employers’ Federation of Service Industries (Palvelutyönantajat, PT) - are scheduled to merge at the beginning of 2005 (FI0310201N).

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