Interest Groups

Interest Groups

Interest group politics in Finland was managed primarily by the large market-sector organizations that represented labor and management. By the mid-1980s, about 85 percent of the work force, both blue-collar and white-collar, belonged to four labor federations encompassing about 100 labor unions. The largest and oldest was SAK, which united the approximately 1 million members, mainly blue-collar, of twenty-eight unions. SAK dated from 1907 and was close to the SDP, but it had within it several unions dominated by communists. The Confederation of Salaried Employees and Civil Servants (Toimihenkilö- ja Virkamiesjarjestöjen Keskusliitto--TVK) consisted of 14 unions with about 370,000 members who voted for a variety of left-wing and right-wing parties. The Central Organization of Professional Associations in Finland (Akava) was made up of 45 unions, in which 210,000 members--white-collar professionals--voted mainly for conservative parties. The Confederation of Technical Employees' Organizations in Finland (Suomen Teknisten Toimihenkilöjarjestöjen Keskusliitto--STTK) united 15 unions, in which 130,00 members--lower-level white-collar employees--split their votes among all parties. Representing the interests of farmers and close to the Kesk was the Confederation of Agricultural Producers (Maataloustuottajain Keskusliitto--MTK), with about 300,000 members. Representing industry and management were the Confederation of Finnish Employers (Suomen Työnantajain Keskusliitto--STK), made up of twenty-eight member organizations representing 6,000 firms, and the Confederation of Commerce Employers (Liiketyönantajain Keskusliitto--LTK) including nearly 7,000 firms; firms belonging to the STK and the LTK had some 800,000 employees in 1985.

These organizations could speak for the bulk of Finland's work force and business firms, and, since the first of a series of comprehensive incomes policy agreements was concluded in 1968, they had come to rival the government in determining how the country's affairs were to be managed. The settlements, arranged generally at two-year intervals, frequently involved not only wages and working conditions but also social welfare programs that required legislation for their realization. This obliged the governing coalition and the other parties represented in the Eduskunta to be fully apprised of the terms of the settlement.

The government itself provided officials to assist in the negotiations between labor and management. In 1971 it made permanent the post of special negotiator for incomes policy, and a year later it created a board within the prime minister's office to assist this official. On occasion, when negotiations have gone poorly, the prime minister or the president has intervened. The government also has facilitated the incomes agreements by providing expert advice on probable future economic conditions and on what the contending parties could reasonably demand. At appropriate times, leading officials and politicians have issued statements so that by the winter, when formal negotiations began, there was a broadly accepted economic framework within which these negotiations could take place.

Outside the wage agreement system, social groups, or interests, generally worked through the established parties to further their objectives through meetings, lobbying, and other means of voicing their concerns. To secure the support of some segments of the population, most political parties organized student, youth, and sports groups. Parties often devoted as much as one-third of their financial resources to their auxiliary and local branches.

Finnish women, like other groups, sought to further their interests mainly through the country's political and economic organizations. The parties took care that a good number of their leaders were women, and by the 1980s women made up about onethird of the Eduskunta. Women were represented in market-sector organizations according to their occupations. The women's movement was small; it did not play a significant role in Finnish political life, even though it had existed since the 1880s, when the first organization involved in women's rights was founded. The two main women's organizations active in Finland in the 1980s were the Feminist Union (Naisasialiitto Unioni), dating from 1892, and the informal collective, Feminists (Feministit), founded in 1976. They were both apolitical, and their membership, though mainly from the educated middle class, contained some working-class women.

The Nordic committee system was a key forum in which Finnish interest groups, or concerned parties, made their views known to the government. The system had long been used in the region to gather a range of opinions on public matters. It consisted of committees, both temporary ad hoc organs formed to deal with a single question and permanent statutory bodies created to handle broad issues, that were composed of experts and representatives of affected interests. Thus, advocates of labor and business, experts from local and national government, and, when appropriate, single-issue groups, could argue their cases. A committee report, if there was one, could be sent for review to concerned parties, and thereafter to a ministry, where its findings might figure in a government ordinance or in a legislative proposal.

http://www.bacnet.org/Contact/Groups.htm
http://www.step.org/sigs


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