“Our position as a union for all academics is our greatest resource”

The union meeting, the highest decision-making body of the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers, convened on Friday, 20 May, with 55 representatives present in Teams.  In addition to reviewing the Union’s activities and financial statements of last year, the union meeting representatives were briefed on current issues in science and higher education policy. 

At the start of the union meeting, counsellor of education Maarit Palonen from the Ministry of Education and Culture made an appearance. She provided the latest information on the Sustainable Growth Programme for Higher Education in Finland, which seeks solutions whereby higher education and research can contribute to the strengthening of the Finnish public economy and fuel sustainable growth. Key issues were the preparation of the RDI legislation, the continuous learning strategy, set to be ready in autumn, as well as the impact of the aims of raising the competence level on the education system and degrees. “In the future, education and working life will intertwine”, she summarised. Palonen also highlighted the national recommendations for responsible researcher evaluation and its connection to the consideration of the funding model.

“Demands must be met with correctly targeted investments”

In her speech to the union meeting representatives, Maija S. Peltola, President of the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers, stated that the sustainable growth programme for higher education contains many inspiring but also worrying issues that affect the lives of academics. Several things need to be rethought. It is important that they are discussed closely with the Ministry of Education and Culture. “The government wants to invest in education by raising admissions, increasing English-language bachelor’s programmes, creating more flexible study paths and better opportunities to study while working. All this is great and societally significant, but are we supposed to do this as volunteer work? If demands are issued, we need correctly targeted investments, with the money going where the action takes place, not where these organisational charts are drawn”, she clarified.

Peltola stated that the changes will also reflect on how the Union’s activities will be developed to support the needs of an ever more diverse membership and to enhance influence in the dialogue with ever more diverse stakeholders. “We represent grant researchers, lecturers, clinical researchers, doctoral researchers, information sector experts, supervisors, managers, university teachers and professors. We represent academics who work not only in universities but also in the third sector, the Academy of Finland, ministries, research institutes and universities of applied sciences – in short-term or permanent employment relationships. We are a union for all academics, and I consider that to be our greatest resource.”

Comprehensive programme work forms a strong base for electoral influence

Executive Director Johanna Moisio stated in her review of 2021 that our strong programme work over the past years forms a good foundation as we move towards the parliamentary elections in 2023. FUURT’s policy targets are detailed in our higher education and research policy paper and other new policy papers. They have already been widely used in dozens of Union stakeholder meetings. FUURT’s visibility has been enhanced with the actions and events related to the Year of research-based knowledge as well as the media attention attained by the Academic of the year and the report on early-career researchers. We have successfully advocated for the funding of science.  Concrete improvements for members include the membership fee reform, our new, comprehensive legal protection benefit, the new grant guide in three languages and the refreshed Acatiimi magazine. The development of our services for members with foreign backgrounds includes extensive website contents, simultaneous interpretation of events and English-language webinars.

Spring union meeting granted the board discharge from liability

Financial Manager Sanna Hoikka presented the financial statements for 2021. The union meeting granted the board of 2021 discharge from liability and decided on the use of the surplus of 2021 as well as on the election committee. The chair of the union meeting was Erkki Pesonen from the Association of Researchers and Teachers in Eastern Finland – ITTE.

FUURT’s union meeting is the highest decision-making body in our organisation, in which the Union members are represented more extensively than the Board. Each association’s number of representatives in the union meeting depends on its number of members. As of 2020, the union meetings have been primarily organised in two languages: the representatives may choose to speak Finnish and/or English. This language policy makes us pioneers in both the Finnish trade union sector and the field of organisations.