"I want to be able to sleep well through the night” — shop steward calls for immediate action
Regional chief shop steward Niina Ylisirniö tours workplaces and talks to her coworkers about politics: “They can’t keep cutting from the small salaries of low-wage workers.” Photo: Antti Leinonen Photo: Antti Leinonen.
The term of Prime Minister Sipilä is drawing to a close, and Niina Ylisirniö, regional chief shop steward in Oulu, has seen the effects of his policies in her work. That’s why she is now actively touring her area as a supporter of the Nation of the Free campaign to talk about the upcoming elections.
Whenever Niina Ylisirniö meets with colleagues, she encourages them to join the Nation of the Free campaign as supporters, meaning that they pledge to vote according to the principles of the campaign.
"The Competitiveness Pact and the difficulties we ran into during the round of collective bargaining last spring have made for a challenging time. Politics influences everything, and the strong contacts between our current government and the employers’ organisation Confederation of Finnish Industries have been very apparent. I want to be able to sleep through the night without having to constantly worry about further cuts to employee protections. That’s why I’ve started talking about politics with my coworkers," Ylisirniö says.
Difficulties to make ends meet and decreases to employee protections are common concerns.
Ylisirniö, who looks after the interests of Sodexo restaurant employees at staff cafeterias, schools and kindergartens, tackles issues in the low-wage sector every day. Difficulties to make ends meet and decreases to employee protections are common concerns. Many of her coworkers agree that there must be a change.
"A clear majority is worried about the same things. Most have announced that they intend to vote in the parliamentary elections and have joined the Nation of the Free. Just a handful have lost all hope and have chosen to ignore our the campaign. But I’ve also told them that I intend to get back to them,” Ylisiriniö explains.
“They cannot keep cutting from the small salaries of low-wage employees. The salary must be enough to survive on. I hope that the conversations I’ve had will increase the motivation to vote. The candidate offering the most free gifts may not be the one we should be voting for. We must be careful when deciding who to vote for, and this is the message I want to spread.”
Don’t be afraid to talk politics
While touring workplaces, Ylisirniö has found that many employees are unaware of the cooperation between employers. Employers are working to put their interests on the agendas of our members of Parliament. All employees should understand this and realise that for this reason, employees must stick together as well.
“The first time I went to talk to employees I was nervous. Fortunately a friend from work helped me find my own style of talking about politics. As a rule, my audience has been attentive and positive towards the things I have to say. I’ve even been a little surprised by it myself,” Ylisiriniö says.
Ylisirniö has noticed that it is particularly the employees who follow the news who quickly realise how different things connect, and how decisions made in the Parliament or politics in general impact the world of work.
“I’ve had no bad experiences in the conversations I’ve had, and meeting people keeps getting easier. I’ve found my own style of speaking. During the spring, I intend to go through all of the workplaces in my area and I will definitely recruit everyone in my family to the Nation of the Free campaign. Right now it’s important to keep talking about the elections and about the freedom of employees to make their voices heard.”
“For me, freedom means that I don’t have to be afraid for my job and that it’s ok to join a union. I want this to still be the case after the elections,” states Ylisirniö.
In Finland, the Parliament can make decisions about labour legislation, and the Government which represents the majority of the Parliament is in a key position. For this reason, the parliamentary elections and the elected members of Parliament will have an impact on the lives of every PAM member.
Niina’s tips for joining the Nation of the Free
If you don’t know about the Nation of the Free, find out!
“It’s easier to talk to coworkers about the campaign, the elections and about the issues that are important for employees if you understand the campaign yourself.”
Don’t be afraid to talk to your coworkers!
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like you understand every political issue. This is about talking to your coworkers about issues in the workplace that all connect to national politics.”
Don’t get discouraged!
“The first time is always the hardest, it gets easier after that. Of the employees I’ve met with, 75% have joined the Nation of the Free campaign as supporters.”
Bring your local branch into the Nation of the Free
“At our local branch, we’re encouraging our members to join and we intend to send a campaign newsletter to everyone.”