Interview with Eve Kyntäjä

Interview with Eve Kyntäjä, Advisor for Migration Policy at the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK by Tytti Aalto 20.3.2019.

I interviewed Eve Kyntäjä at SAK’s office in Hakaniemi. I wanted to know about her career path to her present position, her most central responsibilities and how she sees her work developing, among other things.

Eve Kyntäjä works in SAK, which is a labour market organisation, social interest group, campaigning force and NGO. It is a confederation of 17 trade unions in industry, the public sector, transport, private services and culture. The mission of SAK is to improve the welfare, living standards and democratic participation of employees and to promote a fair and equitable society.

Eve Kyntäjä is working as an Advisor for Migration Policy and she has worked for SAK for almost seventeen years. Her background is in research. She graduated from the University of Tartu in 1982, after which she worked a little while as a researcher Tallinn. She moved to Finland in 1991 and continued working as a researcher for the Migration Institute of Finland for five years. Interest in further studies took Eve to the universities of Turku and Helsinki, but in the middle of doing her doctoral thesis in Helsinki University she noticed in 2002 a very interesting job add by SAK. They were looking for a project manager for a 3-year project related to labour market co-operation between Finland and Estonia. She was so interested in this opportunity, that she decided to apply, even though she had some doubts about fitting into a quite different role than that of a researcher. She was selected to the position, and during the next three years she did pioneering work in cross-national labour market collaboration. One of the biggest achievements was opening and running an information centre offering information on the rules of the Finnish labour market to the Estonians in Tallinn. In addition, the work included e.g. networking, communication, sharing information, publishing material for different stakeholder as well as organising education and guidance related to labour mobility from Estonia to Finland. The project was a success and it was rewarded by the European Commission for enhancing labour mobility. The work continued for another three years after the project, but after that the field had developed to the point that it was time to move on to other responsibilities within SAK.

Eve stayed for a short period with collaboration issues with the Baltic Sea region as she made an interview survey among the Estonian and Russian about their experiences of labour unions and in working life in general. After that Eve was given more responsibilities related to representation, labour immigration, labour availability consideration and integration issues. As the labour market field has evolved during the years, so has Eve’s responsibilities. Since people are moving after work opportunities more than before, the work is changing to more international and collaborative with EU. There is a national level, tripartite and EU level in the work. Eve’s work contains a lot of collaboration with different stakeholder as well as lobbying for the causes that are important for SAK and its interest groups. Nowadays the European Union directives and EU level co-operation are an important consideration in Eve’s work. She represents the Finnish trade unions in an EU committee that works with the free mobility of labour.

The most important responsibilities in the work are influencing the migration policies both in Finland and on EU level, lobbying for the important issues and sharing information and expertise to the interest groups. One of the most important competences that Eve needs in her work is a holistic perspective on things, seeing the big picture, since her work consists of so many different aspects from the point of view of politics related to immigration, labour market, education, social issues, taxation and housing. Other skills that she mentions are the ability to get along with people who think differently, diplomacy and co-operation. Though the parties have different ideologies, working for the common goal must be priority. Eve finds most rewarding in her work the effect that she can have on decision making and legislation. On the other hand, she finds the statements that are requested but lead nowhere frustrating.

The work becomes more and more international and at the same time EU level decisions harmonize policies. There are development projects and initiatives on regular bases. The most recent project Eve is involved in is Mahdollisuuksien aika (Time of Opportunities) which concentrates in immigration and the effects of climate politics in employment. Seems like Eve Kyntäjä’s work is far from done.

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