Why should you join a union?

Most employees in Finland are union members. Union membership is a normal part of life at work that does not cause you any difficulties, but on the contrary brings you benefits. You should join a union because membership gives you security at work.
14.07.2021 10:24
The right to organise is guaranteed by law in Finland, meaning that everyone is free to join a union.

The union negotiates your pay and other terms of employment on your behalf. The resulting collective agreement determines the minimum pay for the work. This agreement also settles the rules governing working time, sick pay, overtime pay, shift work bonuses and holidays.

The employees at many workplaces elect a union representative to help with various problems. You can consult this representative if you are concerned about any aspect of your workplace or employment, such as your pay, or if you suspect that your employer is not treating you fairly.

Unions provide a complete package of membership services. On joining a trade union, you may also become a member of its associated unemployment fund. This fund will pay unemployment benefit in proportion to your earnings if you lose your job.

Unions provide a wide range of help and advice when difficulties arise at a workplace. You may contact your own union directly if no employee representative has been elected at your workplace.

Many unions also arrange training, discount holidays, insurance and a wide range of other benefits for their members.

If you have not yet joined, then you can search for a suitable union online at www.liitot.fi/en.

What’s the difference between an employment contract and a collective agreement?

An employment contract is an agreement between an employer and an individual employee concerning remunerated work. You should always make this contract in writing to avoid uncertainty about what was agreed.

An individual employment contract will specify key points, such as your working duties and how long the employment will last, meaning whether the job is temporary with a certain ending date, or permanent and expected to continue indefinitely. An employment contract will also specify your working time. Although your employment contract is personal, several clauses may specify that the terms and conditions are “according to the collective agreement for the industry”.

Collective agreements are negotiated for entire industries between unions and associations representing employees and employers. They include many terms and conditions that are more generous than the legal minimum from the point of view of employees.

Collective agreements also provide a framework for individual employment contracts. This means that there is no need to agree on everything separately in the individual employment contract. Many aspects such as shift bonuses and annual holiday arrangements have already been agreed for the entire company and industry.

These aspects are typically laid down in collective agreements. The terms and conditions set out in the collective agreement for an industry tend to be better than the minimum standards required by law:

  • minimum pay rates in the industry
  • pay increases while the collective agreement is in force
  • various shift bonuses
  • bonuses for working on public holidays
  • worktime shortening leave
  • bonuses and leave related to shift work or special features of the work
  • holiday bonus
  • pay for time off when caring for a sick child
  • extended sick pay
  • maternity and paternity leave pay
  • work-related travel allowances
  • mileage allowances for using your own car.

YTK is not a trade union

As its name indicates, the YTK general unemployment fund is an unemployment fund. It is important to realise that it is not a trade union. It does not negotiate your pay or other working conditions, and it does not conclude collective agreements.

Members of YTK are entitled to earnings-related unemployment benefit, but they do not enjoy the assistance and benefits provided by trade unions.

You will always encounter issues at work that should be checked with union specialists, and the help provided by a union is already vitally important when you are facing real problems.

Trade unions and their national confederations empower employees

The ability of a union to negotiate better collective agreements depends on how many members it has. By joining a union, you express your confidence that the union will promote and defend your interests and those of your workmates or colleagues.

The trade unions and their national confederations, SAK, Akava and STTK, paticipate in the national social dialogue from the perspective of employees. They are also involved in improving many laws that affect the working world. The influence of these unions and confederations on society again depends on how many members they have.

The right to organise is guaranteed by law in Finland, meaning that everyone is free to join a union. You may also consult our advisory service at www.liitot.fi/en to find out which trade union is most suitable for you.