International SAK

The fundamental rights of workers must be respected globally. This is the prime objective of international lobbying work by the trade union movement.
ETUC Action Day in Brussels in March 2013. Photo: Sanni Halla-aho

There are many countries where the movement has to work under difficult conditions. Employees must always be entitled to organise and bargain their terms and conditions of employment collectively.

The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK and the other employee confederations in Finland – STTK and Akava – are all affiliated to the following international organisations:

European co-operation

Helping to prepare Directives and agreements on minimum terms and conditions of employment in the European Union is an important part of the collective bargaining policy work of SAK. Improvements in labour legislation and collective agreements in Finland increasingly begin in pan-European collective bargaining processes leading to reform work in the various Member States.

The Social Policy Protocol to the 1991 Maastricht Agreement recognised the status of labour market organisations as negotiating partners in proposals formulated at the European Commission. Accords negotiated by the social partners may be approved as European Union Directives in a process known as the European social dialogue.

The following agreements have been negotiated under the social dialogue process to date:

The European social dialogue process has also led to agreements on action programmes for developing lifelong skills and qualifications (2002) and promoting equality between men and women (2005).

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)

The trade union movement is represented in pan-European collective bargaining by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). The Finnish national labour confederations SAK, STTK and Akava are all affiliated to this organisation. The ETUC also lobbies policymakers at the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, and seeks to ensure that the trade union movement is represented on various European Union advisory bodies.

The ETUC represents the interests of about 45 million employees organised in trade unions belonging to 89 national labour confederations in 39 European countries. It is headquartered in Brussels and incorporates the work of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), including research, training and work environment questions.

European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) advises the European Union on labour and other issues. It comprises representatives of employers, employees and the self-employed, together with other members speaking on behalf of general social interests such as those of consumers and environmental organisations. SAK, STTK and Akava are represented on the EESC in the same way as their employer organisation counterparts.

FinUnions: a mission of organised labour to the European Union

SAK and STTK maintain a permanent joint mission to the European Union in Brussels. The FinUnions mission lobbies for the interests of Finnish employees and keeps organisations in Finland informed of the activities and decisions of the European Union.

FinUnions works with Finnish trade unions to monitor the progress of labour market issues in European Union institutions and to maintain regular relations with policymakers. It also works with the ETUC and the Brussels-based representatives of national trade union organisations.

SAK, STTK and Akava regularly collaborate in formulating European Union policies, for instance by co-ordinating their preparations for board meetings at the ETUC.

Global co-operation

Economic globalisation is an ongoing challenge for the international trade union movement, and defending the fundamental human and trade union rights defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is a crucial part of the movement’s international efforts.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

SAK, STTK and Akava are members of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which represents the interests of 181 million employees organised under 340 affiliates in 163 countries and regions.

The ITUC works with trade unions and global stakeholders such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The ITUC also has close ties to international secretariats operating in various sectors and to the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC). It also collaborates closely with the ILO and maintains links to many other UN agencies.

TUAC: the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD

The Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC) brings the point of view of organised labour to the attention of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and also advises the organisation’s various committees and Member States. SAK, STTK and Akava are all members of TUAC.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO)

The ILO seeks to promote social justice and the internationally recognised human rights of workers, to improve the status and working conditions of employees throughout the world, and to develop international legislative standards for labour.

The ILO is the only UN agency that operates on a tripartite basis, including the participation in policymaking of trade union and employer representatives on an equal footing with national governments.

The Conventions and Recommendations of the ILO now form an international body of legislative standards for labour, with a total of some 400 ILO instruments approved by the year 2006. Finland has ratified 100 ILO Conventions, and these have had a substantial impact on Finnish labour legislation.

The Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland (SASK)

The Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland (SASK) seeks to improve conditions for free and democratic trade union work in various countries. This work mainly takes the form of implementing various development projects.

SASK projects improve gender equality, reinforce local social safety networks and promote the rights of workers. Most of the projects support trade union training, while others provide legal assistance or material and humanitarian aid.

SASK works in Finland to ensure that issues of development and solidarity are kept on the agenda of national debate.

Its members include SAK and STTK, together with 37 trade unions affiliated to these confederations and to Akava, and some individual supporters.

Co-operation in Northern Europe

The Nordic and North European region is an important theatre for international lobbying work by SAK. A long tradition of Nordic co-operation has expanded in recent years to include the trade union movements of the Baltic countries, and of Estonia in particular. SAK has also collaborated with the Russian trade union movement, especially in St Petersburg, the Leningrad Region and Karelia.

Nearly all of the labour confederations in the Nordic countries belong to the Council of Nordic Trade Unions (NFS), which lobbies on Nordic economic and social policy issues and co-ordinates trade union strategy. The NFS is an important channel for influencing European Union institutions, especially for Norway and Iceland. SAK and STTK are members of the NFS (Akava left NFS as of 2018).

Various networks also provide a platform for co-operation in Northern Europe:

The Baltic Sea Trade Union Network (BASTUN) unites labour confederations in all of the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea.

The trade unions of Norway, Sweden and Finland are members of a trade union council working under the ambit of the NFS. A trade union organisation from Murmansk in Russia is also involved in this network.

The Baltic Sea Labour Forum (BSLF) promotes labour market co-operation in the Baltic Sea region with a view to improving networking between labour market organisations, politicians and national stakeholders. SAK, STTK and Akava are all involved in the work of this forum.