Trade unions around the world support SAK and criticise the conduct of the Finnish government

Pekka Ristelä, Head of International Affairs at the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), reports that trade unions are particularly appalled at the precipitous nature of reforms planned by the Finnish government.
30.04. 11:50
Photo SAK.

SAK has received several dozen expressions of support from trade unions and labour organisations, and from union federations in various sectors around the world. Support has come not only from European countries, but also from Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

These letters of solidarity are a traditional way of showing international cooperative support in conflict.

SAK International Affairs Chief Pekka Ristelä explains that while this support is no surprise under the current serious circumstances, the sheer number of messages and the diversity of their senders has exceeded normal expectations. 

Pekka Ristelä, Photo Jaakko Lukumaa.

Contact has mainly come in the form of letters, but many leaders of trade unions and international labour federations have also taken to the X messaging service in order to express a public stand on the violation of employee rights.

– The fiercest criticism is reserved for the way in which the government is implementing reforms without genuinely negotiating with the trade union movement. This contrasts starkly with the established reputation of Finland.

Criticism has been heard from many trade unions that operate under difficult conditions for employees in their own countries. These include letters of support and protest from the PIPSEA public sector union in the Philippines and the Malawian union that represents food industry workers.

The Seafarers’ Union of Turkey (TDS) even addressed its letter to Finland’s Ambassador in that country.

– The precipitous nature of the reforms is shocking. Many trade union activists feel that if something like this can happen in Finland, then the achievements of organised labour may be threatened everywhere, Pekka Ristelä explains.

ILO communiqué exceptional

Both the European Trade Union Confederation ETUC and the International Trade Union Confederation ITUC, which represents free trade unions globally, have objected to Finnish government measures that curtail the rights of employees. SAK is affiliated to both of these organisations.

The ITUC views restrictions on the right to strike in the form proposed by the Finnish government as a serious violation of employee rights. The ITUC also petitioned the United Nations International Labour Organisation ILO to take a stand on the conduct of the Finnish government. The ILO works on the tripartite principle, meaning that it includes representatives of Member States, employers and employees.

Pekka Ristelä regards an ILO intervention with a country like Finland as highly unusual.

– Interventions from the ILO tend to be necessary in countries that are still establishing their formal labour market arrangements.

The protests have so far fallen on deaf ears, with the Orpo-Purra Government seemingly unruffled by potential damage to Finland’s international reputation.

SAK Senior Legal Advisor Paula Ilveskivi notes that the Orpo-Purra Government is showing complete indifference towards Finland’s international commitments.

Ilveskivi is astonished that this indifference on the part of the government now includes concerns expressed by the ILO, and she notes that a governing party majority on the Employment and Equality Committee of Parliament simply ignored this intervention when forcing through proposals that limit the fundamental human right of employees to strike.