Trade unions widely accepted

Finns reject the claim that trade unions slow down society's modernisation. A recent poll, commissioned by the Central Association of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), revealed that 81 per cent of citizens believe that without trade unions employees would be in trouble.

As reported in the social democratic newspaper Uutispäivä Demari (28 May 2001), the poll showed that most social groups strongly believe in the importance of trade unions. The necessity of unions is emphasised most strongly by supporters of the Left Alliance (97%), the Social Democratic Party (92%), unemployed (90%) and members of SAK (89%)

However, a clear majority of managers (64%) and entrepreneurs (60%) also agree. Two thirds of both farmers and members of the Finnish entrepreneurs' organisation disagree with the idea that trade unions hamper society's progress.

A majority of Finns (71%) appreciate highly or relatively highly the work of SAK. This attitude is widespread in all social groups.

Commenting on these findings in an editorial, the left-wing newspaper Kansan Uutiset (29 May 2001) says that during Paavo Lipponen's premiership, co-operation between labour market organisations and the government has worked well.

"This co-operation has been one of the key factors in beating the recession in the mid-90s and in the consequent economic development which has been clearly stronger than in other EU countries."

In another editorial, Kansan Uutiset (29 May 2001) writes about the trade union movement's attitude towards the growth of capital income in Finland.

"The trade union movement's demand of increasing the wage-earners share in the national income is just and also good for the national economy. Bolstering capital income has allowed the income gap to widen. The wage-earners have no reason to agree to a small income increase as long as the share holders claim most of the cake."

The newspaper points out that the Prime Minister has agreed that an investigation into the income gap is necessary.

Commenting on SAK's annual conference, which was held recently, the regional newspaper Aamulehti (29 May 2001) writes that SAK has evolved into a widely accepted supporting column for society. While it was earlier "a workers' struggle organisation", it has now become "an institution supporting social order".

Aamulehti is unhappy, however, about the fact that although SAK is independent of political parties, it has clear connections to social democratic policies. The newspaper says that, after all, SAK has members who support all political parties, including right-wing parties.

In its annual conference, SAK decided to emphasise reducing unemployment. The target is an unemployment rate of not more than five per cent. The leader of SAK, Lauri Ihalainen, said that "the best medicine against social exclusion and poverty is a job".

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