The Opetusalan Ammattijärjestö, together with the Finnish trade union movement, has backed a demonstration against racism and violent right-wing extremism which received widespread national public support.

The demonstration, held in Helsinki at the end of September, was organised in response to the death of a 28-year-old Finnish man assaulted during a neo-Nazi rally earlier that month. At the demonstration, over 15,000 people joined together to fight a culture of silence that only nurtures those who seek to spread hate, according to the organisers.

The trade union movement strongly supported the action, with all three trade union confederations - Akava, SAK and STTK - encouraging their members to participate.

OAJ: Act needed against racism

“There must be zero tolerance for discrimination,” said Opetusalan Ammattijärjestö (OAJ) President Olli Luukkainen. He said Finnish teachers are “very much committed to fairness and pluralism, as an integral part of their ethics”.

Speeches are not enough, action is needed to defend tolerance, he added. This is why education sector unions have challenged all Finnish teachers and students to eradicate bullying, discrimination and hate speeches through one big campaign, he explained. The campaign’s patron is the President of the Republic, Sauli Niinistö.

The “Strong together” anti-hate campaign encourages all teachers to address the topic in their classes and promote events creating a sense of community.

“Skin colour or other human characteristics must not affect people’s ability to live fully their everyday live, get education, a job or access services,” said Luukkainen. “This is a human rights issue, so racism is clearly a crime.”

Across the country, teachers are already preparing various creative events using visual arts, music and literature. The recommended day of action is 11 November.