According to the Finnish law, employees have the right to belong to a trade union. Trade unions negotiate with employer unions, for example on wages and other working conditions on behalf of employees. Most Finns are members of a trade union or unemployment fund.
The same trade union usually involves people from the same field (e.g. nurses) or with the same education (e.g. engineers). An employee’s right to belong to a trade union cannot be restricted by any agreements. Discrimination of employees due to their membership in a trade organisation is a punishable offence.
You can join a trade union in your own sector, if you like. You can join one by contacting a shop steward at your workplace or contacting a trade union directly. Most trade unions can be joined also by filling in an application form on the union’s website. The members of a trade union pay the union a membership fee, which is usually about 1–2% of their pay. The membership fee is tax-deductible.
Why join a trade union?
Trade unions promote workers’ rights. The unions also provide useful services and help in difficult situations. In addition to a trade union, you should join an unemployment fund. As a member of the fund, you can receive earnings-related unemployment allowance, which is higher than basic unemployment allowance.
The members of a trade union can participate in training and leisure activities organised by the union. They also receive support from the union’s shop steward in conflict situations at work. When needed, the union also provides advice and help in negotiations.
At workplaces, a trade union and its member workers are represented by a shop steward. The shop steward is elected by the workers. The shop steward acts as a negotiator, arbitrator and means of communication between the employer and employees. You can also ask the shop steward, for example, about issues related to the collective agreement.
There are about 80 trade unions in Finland, and they belong to three trade union federations. These are SAK, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions, STTK, the Finnish Confederation of Professionals and Akava, the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland. When you join a trade union, you can join the union’s unemployment fund.
Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland, AKAVAInformation on Trade Union activitiesLink redirects to another website
Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions, SAKInformation on Trade Union activitiesLink redirects to another website
Finnish Confederation of Professionals, STTKInformation on Trade Union activitiesLink redirects to another website
The trade union and unemployment fund are separate systems. There are 25 unemployment funds in Finland. An employee who is a member of an unemployment fund pays a membership fee to the unemployment fund while working. If the work ends and they become unemployed, they can apply to the unemployment fund for earnings-related daily allowance. It pays to join an unemployment fund, because the earnings-related daily allowance is higher than the basic daily allowance paid by Kela.
There are some conditions for receiving earnings-related daily allowance from the unemployment fund. Find out about these conditions immediately when you join an unemployment fund. For example, you must work and be a member of an unemployment fund for a certain period of time.
Read more on the InfoFinland web page Unemployment benefit.