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Union boss wins confidence vote after advocating lower pay for migrants

Sture Fjäder was criticised by some trade unionists after advocating a proposal to allow employers to pay immigrants less.

Sture Fjäder
Sture Fjäder Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

A trade union boss who suggested employers should be allowed to pay immigrants lower wages has won a confidence vote taken by the board of his confederation.

Sture Fjäder, who heads up the Akava confederation of professional unions, had raised the hackles of many in the labour movement by suggesting that immigrants without qualifications should get lower pay to tempt employers to give them a chance. He later apologised for the statements.

“We had an open discussion about the situation in the board,” said Akava vice-chair Jyrki Wallin. “The board voted on whether to call a confidence vote at a wider meeting of the confederation. The board’s clear message was that Sture Fjäder enjoys the confidence of the Akava board.

Of the 21 votes cast by board members, 15 were in favour of Fjäder while five wanted a broader meeting to vote on the matter. One board member cast a blank ballot.

“The discussion was constructive, and good, it was very new and future-orientated,” said Fjäder as he emerged from the meeting.

Long-term breakdown in trust

Two unions, Talentia which represents social workers and Akavan Erityisalat, which represents workers in different sectors, had earlier said that the chair no longer enjoyed their confidence.

Salla Luomanmäki of Akavan Ertiyisalat said at a press conference that the union had had a lot of feedback about Fjäder. She added that the breakdown in trust was long in the works, and did not relate to just one single outburst.

“I’m not going to talk about private matters,” said Luomanmäki. “They are internal Akava issues, as well as public ones. I’m satisfied that we had a good and thorough discussion within Akava about equality and parity.”

Fjäder had made his comments about immigrant pay levels in the context of a government attempt to weaken employment protections for workers in small companies. The government claimed the move would create jobs by lowering barriers to hiring employees, but the proposal was eventually dropped after stiff union resistance.

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