This means that SAK has no individual members, but instead ordinary employees belong to SAK indirectly through their own trade unions.
There are about 80 trade unions in Finland, most of which belong to one of the country’s three major labour confederations. SAK is one of these confederations, and the other two are
- Confederation of Unions for Academic Professionals in Finland - Akava
- Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees - STTK.
The employers are also generally organised into federations for the sectors in which they operate. These in turn belong to various national employers’ confederations, of which the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) represents the private sector, while there are also organisations for employers in the State, local government and ecclesiastical sectors.
The trade unions take care of their members’ interests through a network of locally elected representatives and in other ways. They also conclude collective agreements with their counterpart employers’ federations on minimum pay rates and other terms and conditions of employment.
Unions also provide their members with advice and guidance, training, activities and benefits, and they operate sectoral unemployment funds that pay earnings-related benefit to members in the event of unemployment.
As a national labour confederation, SAK harmonises the objectives of its affiliated unions and works to enhance their operations. It also engages in general collective bargaining on behalf of employees, concluding national agreements with the employers’ confederations on terms and conditions of employment and other aspects of working life. The Finnish government may also be a party to these negotiations.
SAK also influences politicians and other public policymakers to ensure that the point of view of employees is properly and fully considered in legislation and public policy. Through international organisations and other contacts, SAK is an active lobbyist for the common interests of employees throughout the world and for improved co-ordination and partnership of trade unions globally.
The influence exerted by SAK is based on a very high rate of trade union organisation: About 70 per cent of employees in Finland belong to a trade union. SAK provides a vehicle for its affiliated trade unions and their members to find the collective strength that is required when lobbying for major reforms.