Metalworkers’ Union and Chemical Workers’ Union to merge
Formation of country’s largest labour union approved
The emergence of Finland’s largest labour union, was secured on Thursday when members of the Metalworkers’ Union and the Chemical Workers’ Union voted in favour of the establishment of the new organisation, provisionally known as TEAM.
The measure was approved by 55.6 per cent of voting members of the Metalworkers’ Union, and 62.1 per cent of the members of the Chemical Workers’ Union.
Even though the voter turnout among was just 26.5 per cent among the metal workers, and 29.5 per cent among the chemical workers, the vote is still valid, as both unions were committed to honour the result of the vote, regardless of turnout.
Both Metalworkers’ Union chairman Riku Aalto and Chemical Workers’ Union chairman Timo Vallittu are pleased with the outcome, although the low turnout was a disappointment.
“People are primarily worried about whether or not they have work. The TEAM project is not foremost in their minds”, Vallittu said.
The decision by the Chemical Workers’ Union is final. The Metalworkers’ Union will formalise it at its union congress in the summer.
“This gives us the possibility to establish an organisation of the kind that has not existed before in Finnish working life”, Vallittu said.
Lauri Lyly, a top figure in the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), who has led the TEAM project, described the move as the biggest single organisational change in the Finnish labour movement in 40 years.
The Metalworkers’ Union and the Chemical Workers’ Union are the largest partners in the TEAM project. Others include the Wood and Allied Workers’ Union, the Electrical Workers’ Union, the Finnish Media Union, and the Finnish Railwaymen's Union.
It has been difficult to persuade the Electrical Workers’ Union to join the project. A poll taken among local union organisations showed that a majority of members were opposed to the idea. However, Electrical Workers’ Union president Martti Alakoski expects that the result of the vote among the members of the Metalworkers Union, and the Chemical Workers’ Union has changed the situation.
“We would be in a rather strange situation, if we were alone outside the project.”
A president for the new union is to be chosen in the autumn. Lauri Lyly would not say on Thursday if he might be interested in the post.
The merger of six unions will form a new organisation on the organised labour front, with 330,000 members.
TEAM is a working name of the group, deriving from words referring to professionals in industry and technology. An official name is to be decided in the spring. One option would be STEAM, or Suomen teollisuuden ammattilaiset (“Professionals of Finnish Industry”).
Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK)
Finnish Metalworkers´ Union
Chemical Workers´ Union