Labour Unions ponder presidential election – some contribute to Haavisto campaign
Niinistö’s views on striking irk some union leaders
Finland’s labour unions are considering strategies in the ongoing second round of Finland’s presidential election campaign. Some unions insist on remaining officially neutral, but those who are taking a stand appear to be supporting Green League candidate Pekka Haavisto.
So far, the biggest campaign contribution from organised labour, EUR 8,000, has been pledged to Haavisto’s campaign by the Service Union United PAM.
The chairwoman of the union, Ann Selin, says that factors affecting their decision include Haavisto’s “values and his humane view of the world”. Selin herself joined Haavisto’s supporters on Tuesday.
The Finnish Post and Logistics Union PAU decided on Monday to support Haavisto with a contribution of EUR 1,000.
“Haavisto is closer to our values than Sauli Niinistö”, says PAU chairman Esa Vilkuna, explaining the reasons behind the decision of the union’s executive.
Another factor influencing the decision is that PAU has many immigrants among its members, Vilkuna says.
A modest amount of support is coming from the Industrial Union TEAM.
“I am publicly taking a stand in favour of Haavisto. However, I am not sure that they are rejoicing [in the Haavisto camp] that pro-nuclear energy rhinoceroses like me join the group”, says TEAM chairman Timo Valittu.
In the first round many unions gave financial backing to the Social Democratic candidate Paavo Lipponen and Left Alliance candidate Paavo Arhinmäki. In addition, union leaders gave personal endorsements - primarily to Lipponen.
Finland’s largest labour union confederation, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), is not officially endorsing either candidate, but the federation’s director of work and business operations Matti Tukiainen wrote in his blog on Tuesday that he is leaning toward Haavisto.
Tukiainen said that the deciding factor in his assessment involves Niinistö’s views on illegal strikes.
Niinistö said in a television interview on January 11th that he is in favour of stiffer punishments for strikes that take place while a labour contract is in force.
Tukiainen said that Niinistö lacks understanding of why employees sometimes walk off the job.
Niinistö later tried to soften the impact of his previous comments. He said in another television appearance later that illegal strikes are often protests against certain actions by employers, and not an attack on the labour contract itself.
In the same debate, Pekka Haavisto defended the right to unauthorised industrial action in certain extreme situations.
Metalworkers’ Union president Riku Aalto says that his union is not donating money to either candidate in the second round. Aalto would also not give his personal choice.
Similar views were expressed by Jarkko Eloranta, chairman of the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL.
The Finnish Construction Union also does not plan to contribute to the campaign.
“There is a tendency in the rank-and-file to favour Haavisto. I have received e-mails where Social Democratic members of labour unions are urged to support Haavisto”, says Construction Union chairman Matti Harjuniemi.
The union’s second chair Kyösti Suokas had come out in support of Haavisto already in the first round.