NFU Blog

Using the Nordic potential

The Nordic team won the winter Olympic medal league in grand style. 39 medals in total, well over USA’s 25. A Nordic Olympic team would for sure have a great potential.Although it is tempting, I am not suggesting that the Nordic Union should be recreated – I just like the idea of winning. So what to do? A middle way is the obvious Nordic answer.

Nordic Financial Unions (NFU) is, of course, such a solution. NFU’s eight member unions are sovereign and have their own policies but they are not contesting against each other, even though some healthy sparring might exist from time to time. NFU’s member unions are simply working together by bringing forward policies and sharing ideas and knowledge through NFU.

But one important question still remains. Can we compare us with winter Olympic teams and athletes? Well, maybe not in muscle strength, but definitely in impact. As you know, the Nordic area dominance is even stronger when it comes to trade union values. We are among the world leaders when it comes to employee benefits and protection. For example, compare the Nordic area with USA again. Bank workers there “have no legal right to take sick leave and a very limited number of days of paid parental leave. Health insurance is extremely expensive and defined-benefit pensions are a thing of the past, according to UNI.”

The Nordic model is challenged by the lack of employee benefits in USA and other countries.  Policies and rules that affect you and the Nordic model in the financial sectors are increasingly decided by global frameworks and EU rules. And the policymakers deciding these, from USA and the biggest EU countries, set the rules according to their norms that rarely include trade union values. So we must pay attention to global policies, and trade union work also in the USA.  But do we in the Nordic area actually have the capacity to affect these?

Interestingly enough, the Nordic region is the fifth largest economy in the European Union. And EU’s economy, measured in GDP, is the largest in the world (yes, bigger than USA’s). And we have 46 Nordic Members of the European Parliament, which gives us a seventh place. If Norway and Iceland should join, we would be the fifth largest in the European Parliament. And by history we all know that trade unions in the Nordic countries have a significant impact on national policymakers, so as trade unionists we could make a big difference. Because, at least in theory, the Nordic policymakers could have a strong impact on the trends, policies and rules that are set in EU and the world. And the EU in turn could have a great impact on the rest of the world.

When we are not working together on a Nordic level, there is apparently an unused potential. In the long run, it could be devastating for the Nordic model as we know it, since European and global policymakers do not promote our model. A series of articles in the coming NFU Updates will highlight this challenge against our model.

NFU is however doing what we can to raise the Nordic voice. In the coming weeks my colleagues and I will attend several meetings in Brussels with trade union colleagues and others, promoting and including the Nordic perspective. And we are also working on a seminar, which will be held on June 3-4 for shop stewards in the Nordic company unions, where we will discuss solutions to common challenges.

There might not be a medal league for us. However, the end result from a victory is not less valuable.

So if you are part of the NFU family, and have an issue where you need a stronger voice, or just some Nordic sparring, give me a call. Working as a Nordic team is after all what NFU, as one of few, does.

Martin Hassel, Policy Officer

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