From a union to a community – farewell blog of the Executive Director 

‘Johanna, before your time, we only heard about the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers when red flags were waving. Now FUURT is a vital co-operative partner for us’, stated one university rector several years ago. I took on the position of Executive Director for the Union about six years ago at a point in which the operations of the Union were in dire need of development. A maintenance backlog had built up, the personnel were anxious for new ideas and new operational methods, more active members were needed, and there was a lack of focus on co-operation. Contacts with external stakeholders were minimal and the primary focus was on Akava’s internal work. The Union’s financial situation was strong, however, and the Board was filled with individuals who were excited about and ready to take on new directions. 

Previously, as a shop steward, I had watched the renewal of another union, and I knew that the only way to get anything new going in FUURT was to ask its members for their opinions and views. The member segmentation project conducted in 2019 has been a strong guiding force for our activities ever since it was completed. FUURT’s membership is highly diverse, and the project team stated at that time that the Union had more customer segments than a large department store. One single approach was not going to work for everyone, and the members wanted very different things from the Union. 

On the basis of the member segmentation, we set out to draft an operational strategy, which subsequently became the first strategy designating the operational guidelines of the Union. The strategy made it easy to draw up the annual action plans for future investments and competence development in accordance with the ideas of the personnel. We wanted to strengthen the Union’s position in terms of science policy and intensify the promotion of interests regarding our membership as a means of improving working conditions for all those engaged in the fields of science, research, and teaching. 

FUURT has always had a highly committed personnel who work tirelessly to safeguard the conditions for science and research work. It has been my great pleasure to work with top experts in the areas of organisational activities and science and research work within the Union and the Akava community at large. There was no problem we couldn’t resolve together whether it was the needs of a member with a foreign background or the drafting of a counterproposal to the labour law reforms put forth by the new Government under Prime Minister Petteri Orpo. 

One of the biggest challenges that arose during my term as Executive Director was to continue leading a national Union and persist with its advocacy and negotiation work under the exceptional conditions brought on by the COVID-19 era. It certainly took its toll on our entire community. The exceptional situation separated us from one another, complicated many things, and increased the risk of misunderstandings. We all learned a great deal from that, however, and perhaps gained even better appreciation for the Union’s key values: transparency, community and, through that, trust. No one in this country defends science and research like we do – researchers, teachers, and experts must all pull together, have joint discussions about difficult issues, and move forward as a united and dynamic community.  

I am proud that FUURT has, according to its strategy, succeeded in becoming the primary advocacy organisation for science and research in Finland. No science policy reforms are prepared currently in this country without consulting our Union. That was my goal in this position, and it was among the first goals we realised. Our negotiation position within the university sector is strong. Our policies are well-known, and we have been told that they serve as a common resource for many rectors and HR managers. 

FUURT participates in active and smooth co-operation with foundations, the Trade Union of Education in Finland OAJ, different political parties, other Akava trade organisations, the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies, the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters and the rectors’ councils of universities and universities of applied sciences. The Union currently also has direct and functional (as well as rapid, when necessary) connections to the student unions, which is extremely important when faced with a tough situation. 

The decline in Union membership has been reversed and is now showing a slight rise.  FUURT has become Finland’s most international trade union at the same time that the workplaces of our members have become some of the country’s most multicultural workplaces. We have listened closely to our members when developing our membership benefits. The renewed Acatiimi magazine is a beautiful and high-quality publication. We have improved our services by courageously testing different models, and even though every attempt wasn’t a success, we were able to make the necessary corrections and push forward together. Membership fees have been lowered, the rules have been amended, and the project to strengthen the Union’s associational democracy is progressing wonderfully. 

The FUURT brand has been purposefully clarified and reinforced. Within the updated strategy work, we decided to highlight more prominently the importance of the community of researchers, teachers, and experts. Our community is comprised of individual new and existing researcher, teacher, and expert members as well as associations, whose members can turn to FUURT for individual support, a community base, and the opportunity to influence our overall activities. Over the six-year period, we have managed to successfully increase the number of active association members in our activities. Each year, we have around 150 active members throughout Finland, which makes us a tremendously broad and diverse community. This group most recently showed its strength at the start of February with the organisation of highly visible walkouts from universities in three separate municipalities. 

FUURT has actively contributed to the renewal of Akava and JUKO by occupying board seats in both organisations. Our strong handprint was particularly visible last year in the drafting of the internationalisation strategy for Akava. Additionally, on the basis of our proposal, the Teachers’ Unemployment Fund has changed its name to the Unemployment Fund for Education and Research and expanded its membership criteria to allow for all scientists, researchers, and teachers in employment or public service relationships to have the possibility to get earnings-related unemployment security inexpensively from our Fund. 

There were approximately 23,000 persons who received a doctoral education in Finland in 2000, but by 2021, that figure was already nearing 52,000. This proves that FUURT indeed has an enormous growth potential, particularly as the increase in R&D funding over the coming years will further increase the number of PhD holders and R&D employees. The FUURT community will be even stronger as it continues its policy as an interactive, open, and co-operative community that does not shy away from the necessary reforms, now and in the future. 

A warm thanks and hug to all my colleagues, active members, and co-operative partners for these past years. Working with you has been rewarding, and we have accomplished a great deal together. I would like to send a special thanks to Presidents Petri Koikkalainen, Maija S. Peltola, and Tero Karjalainen for your unwavering support throughout these years – you were the best supervisors any Executive Director could have asked for. 

Our collaboration will continue now in a different way, but for the same objectives and issues! 


Johanna Moisio, PhD, Executive Director of FUURT 2017–2024 

Read also: Tieteentekijöiden toiminnanjohtaja Johanna Moisio Tutkimus- ja innovaationeuvoston pääsihteeriksi (Secretary-General, Research and Innovation Council, Prime Minister’s Office as of 1 March 2024)