The Congress of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) has elected Jarkko Eloranta, 50, to serve as the organisation’s new President.

After leading the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL) for nearly five years, Mr Eloranta now succeeds outgoing SAK President Lauri Lyly on his retirement and becomes the 21st President in the history of the national labour confederation.

In his acceptance speech Mr Eloranta pointed out that the past five years have eroded employee trust in the national government, and that it is time to strengthen tripartite co-operation between the government and both sides of industry.

"The Competitiveness Pact stands ready for final ratification and the employees have done their bit. It is now up to the government to ensure that the conditions for improving employment delivered under the Pact are not wasted.

A working world based on free collective bargaining, public services, social security and education are the foundations of our society, the cornerstones of trust and the basis of our affluence. Even minor fractures in these underlying structures can be forced wide open under pressure, with serious and unpredictable consequences that will be difficult and costly to repair."

Mr Eloranta feels that one of the principal missions of SAK will be to draft guidelines for new ways of working and to make social security more appropriate for new forms of labour.

"We absolutely need to address both of these questions. Things cannot be fixed just by tinkering with the social security system, nor can the taxpayer even afford this."

Trade union radar not spotting everyone

Mr Eloranta also feels that the revolution in ways of working will require the trade union movement to modernise its approach.

"The workers of the new economy are not on the radar of the trade union movement. Things are beginning to happen off screen that also affect our present membership. The trade union movement must bring the workers of the new economy into the scope of collective bargaining and improve their status.

The amount of fragmented and part-time work and the continuing growth of zero-hour contracts are phenomena that must be tackled. We are also increasingly seeing various ways of becoming self-employed."

Speaking at the 19th SAK Congress in Tampere on Tuesday, incoming President Jarkko Eloranta stressed that the trade union movement must always be a progressive popular movement.

"The strength and power of the movement lies in passionate and committed individuals who seek to be involved in the process of building a better world of work and a more equitable society."

Ann Selin elected as Chairperson of Delegate Council

Ann Selin and Helena Nieminen. Photo: Patrik Lindström / SAK
Ann Selin and Helena Nieminen. Photo: Patrik Lindström / SAK

The Congress elected Ann Selin, 55, as Chairperson of the new Delegate Council. Ms Selin is the President of the Service Union United (PAM).

As Vice-Chairpersons of the Delegate Council were elected Helena Nieminen from the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL) and Rauno Lehtinen from the Metalworkers' Union.

The new General Council has 129 members. It meets twice annually.

The SAK Congress is taking place on 6-8 June in Tampere Hall, where 259 delegates from SAK-affiliated trade unions are formulating policy guidelines for the work of Finland’s largest employee confederation over the coming few years.

Photos from SAK's Congress (Flickr)