"Fair Play - Equal Rules" Campaign launched in Finland

August 2005 saw Helsinki hosting the IAAF World Championships in Athletics, the biggest sports event of the year. Mizuno, one of the target firms of the PFOC campaign, was an official sponsor of the Games and the Finnish trade unions thought this would be a good time to launch the PFOC campaign in Finland too. In the autumn of 2004 the Finnish Chemical Workers' Union, which represents also garment workers, called together a team of representatives from different trade union organisations to start preparing for the games. The most active organisations in the campaign are the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland (SASK) and the Chemical Workers' Union.

Campaign launched in the Solidarity Weekend

SASK took the role of organising the campaign and the slogan under which the Finnish activities would run was decided as Fair Play - Equal Rules (Reilu peli - samat säännöt). The April issue of SASK magazine saw 7-pages devoted to the campaign and also the national press has been interested in the campaign with several articles run in different newspapers throughout the year. The campaign was officially launched on the 23rd of April in the Solidarity Weekend in Kuopio, a biannual solidarity event organised by SASK in which around 300 people participated. The theme of this year's Solidarity Weekend was corporate social responsibility and one of the theme seminars was about the "Fair Play - Equal Rules" campaign. In the seminar enthusiastic trade union activists listened to Turo Bergman's, the secretary of International Relations at SAK, Tuomo Lilja's, journalist from the Chemical Workers' newspaper Kiteet and Janne Ronkainen's, director of the Finnish Fair Trade Association, presentations and after a lively discussion followed. "Sports brands are a big source of finance to the global media. Could this be a reason why the mainstream media doesn't ask difficult questions about the origin of sportswear and shoes?", critically remarked Lilja.

One concerned participant in the seminar asked whether ethically conscious consumers should stop doing sports altogether as it is very difficult to know the origin of sneakers and jumpers. Janne Ronkainen encouraged everyone to continue their sport hobbies but at the same time to remember always to ask from their retailer questions about the origin of their sports products. "For something to happen it is enough that one per cent of the consumers start asking questions about the origin of sport goods and under which working conditions they have been made, quickly twenty per cent of consumers are interested in these issues and then the importer has to start looking for answers to these questions", Ronkainen said.

Sewing and Guessing in the World Village Festival

After the Solidarity Weekend preparations were started for the World Village Festival, an annual free multicultural festival in the centre of Helsinki, in which the "Fair Play - Equal Rules" would be made familiar to the masses. The joint tent of SASK and various trade unions in the festival was devoted to the campaign. Out of the 100 000 festival-goers thousands visited the campaign tent and participated in two competitions; in one competition the origin of eleven different brand sneakers, from Mizuno to NoSweat, had to be guessed (the 'made in' label was carefully covered with tape).

In the other competition volunteers from different trade unions took time in the fastest sewer competition. These fun games highlighted well the working conditions in the sportswear and shoe industries and the complicated production chains of these products. Among the visitors to the campaign tent was the Finnish President Tarja Halonen who also participated in the fastest sewer competition, it took her 29 seconds to sew seam on about half a meter of white cloth. This means that Mrs. President wouldn't make it in a garment factory in China where 4 t-shirts have to be sawn in 30 seconds!

Outside the tent people could admire a dummy dressed in a complete official Helsinki World Championships outfit. Mizuno donated outfits for all of the 3000 thousand volunteers of the Games, every single part of the outfit from head to toe made in China.

Leafleting at the World Championships

In August it was the time of the World Championships. SASK originally had plans to rent a stand outside the Helsinki Olympic Stadium where the games were held in order to distribute information about the campaign to sport fans. This turned out to be impossible as stands were only rented out to official sponsors and partners of the games. Therefore the campaigners decided to simply go outside the Stadium on the busiest times and hand out campaign leaflets to the people queuing to enter the Stadium.

10 000 leaflets were printed and volunteers from SASK and the Chemical Worker's Union were handing them out bravely in often horrific weather conditions. In the week that the games were held it rained more in few days than it usually rains in the whole month of August! Leaflets and information about the campaign was also available at the 'World Championship Games Bus', a bus of the Finnish UN Association that was parked outside the Stadium which distributed information about issues related to sports and development, sports being the universal theme of the UN this year.

The Campaign Continues

During the final weekend of the Games SASK took the "Fair Play - Equal Rules" campaign outside Helsinki, to the city of Hämeenlinna where annual Fair Trade Market was held. In Hämeenlinna the same competitions were organised as in the World Village festival and again they proved popular. The only problem was that this time the old second-hand Singer sewing machines used for the sewing competition got a little tired and refused to function! Thankfully one of the visitors to the tent was a professional sewer and she fixed the machines and the competition could continue.

Based on the experience of the spring and summer of 2005 it was decided that the "Fair Play - Equal Rules" campaign is continued in Finland. The rest of the year 2005 will see SASK touring different events with the campaign and a special "Fair Play - Equal Rules" Summer Tour 2006 is planned. So the campaign continues beyond the Helsinki games …

Anni Haataja
Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland

photos taken by Jukka Pääkkönen/SASK

The Finnish President Tarja Halonen in the sewing competition in the World Village festival in Helsinki in May 2005. Dave Seligson from the Chemical Workers' Union timed her performance.
Dave Seligson and Maj Nyman from the Chemical Workers' Union outside the Helsinki Olympic Stadium with campaign leaflets during the World Championships.