Trade Union Membership Issues:

How socially acceptable is it to be a member in a trade union in Finland?

It's quite socially acceptable, and indeed a recognized, integral and important part of the Finnish society and professional life. However, there’s of course no obligation to join, either; we have a freedom of association. If you choose to become a member, the local union reps will be there to help you. The universities have long history with the shop steward system. The shop stewards are experienced and diplomatic, and know how to negotiate and deal with your employers. It is safe to ask their help, and no one will discriminate you because of it. Also, it is good to remember that the union reps/shop stewards never act on your behalf without you knowing about it. All conversations are confidential.

What are the differences between independent unemployment funds and trade union membership? What specific membership benefits does the trade union offer?
When you join an independent unemployment fund, you will guarantee your eligibility for earnings-related unemployment benefits (when you meet the requirements). As a union member, you’ll not only be eligible to get earnings-based unemployment compensation, but also a lot of other benefits, such as the legal services provided by the local shop stewards, the union’s lawyer (matters related to your employment contract, unemployment, conflicts with the employer etc.) and additional legal consultation by a law firm in any other legal issue. As a member you will be insured on your free time and when travelling. You’ll get the Acatiimi magazine (8 issues/year; part of the contributions in English), the Akava calendar and benefits with your membership card, such as cheaper gas.

Are the union dues completely tax-deductible?

Yes, the trade union membership fees are tax-deductible.
How do the various trade unions measure up in comparison?

The Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers (FUURT) is the biggest trade union present at the universities. The FUURT is involved with the negotiations of the collective agreements, and it is a trade union whose main focus is at the universities. FUURT takes care of the interests of the persons who have an employment contract with a University and/or the Academy of Finland.

Is it possible to be a member of two trade unions simultaneously?

Many trade unions have dual membership agreements, so does the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers. A member may belong to two trade unions, and is entitled to pay a reduced membership fee to one of these unions. The conditions vary according to bilateral agreements.

Can I switch trade unions? What happens to my benefits when I do so?

Yes, you can. Just remember to inform your former union about the secession. If you change your unemployment fund within a month of joining, you can transfer any previous periods of membership and employment to your new fund. However, you cannot chance your unemployment fund during the time of unemployment or while having a grant.

What is the language of local union board meetings?

This depends on the local union, and also the composition of the board. In general, when international members join the union boards, the matters are either discussed in English – in part or in full – or interpretation is arranged. Many member associations have had international members on their board, and local associations have begun to have quite a bit of activity and info sessions for international members. No matter what the language, everybody is welcome to join and get involved.