The coronavirus pandemic has reduced the number of the Industrial Union local chapter activities. In spite of this, these chapters are still alive and kicking.
A local chapter is an essential link between the union member and the union and indeed closer to members, as there are more than 500 union chapters. When you join a union, you also join one of the union chapters. Which one, depends on your work and location.
These chapters are nothing new, the oldest ones started in the 19th century. They cover the whole country and all union members’ professions. Some chapters cover a single major workplace, some include members from a large number of workplaces.
The activities of chapters may vary, too. The main focus is on advocacy, defending members’ interests at workplaces, often working in cooperation with shop stewards.
Just as important are all kinds of social activities. Chapters organise trips, family events, sporting and cultural activities. You name it, they have it. Some chapters financially support their members’ own activities with cinema or theatre tickets or joining the union members’ cruise.
Many chapters have their own summer houses for members to use at a reasonable rate. It is also common to have – remember, this is Finland – their own sauna.
CHAPTER IS WHAT MEMBERS WANT
Activities depend on how active the members are and what they want. The chapters are democratic organisations, power is coming directly from members. The members elect the leaders and decide on what to do. If you have any ideas or suggestions, do go to union chapter meetings and let your voice be heard!
Some chapters have their own web home page and their own offices. By visiting these sites one can get information and stay in contact with the chapter.
The Finnish Forest Industries Federation announced in October that it will pull out from the mechanical forestry and bio industry sectors national collective agreements after the existing ones end. Instead, in the future any deals on terms of work will be done at company or factory level.
Though the union will always take care of terms and conditions of work for its members, the employers’ move will most probably make the role of the union local chapters more important in many workplaces.
Since the start of the Industrial Union in 2018 local chapters are encouraged to cooperate more. Joint activities are offering more for the members of smaller chapters than their individual resources would allow them to do alone.
However, right now the coronavirus pandemic has put an end to most activities. But a new day will dawn and during the pandemic there are many interesting plans being made just waiting for the right time to make them happen.
TEXT HEIKKI JOKINEN