Finvacon’s story

Establishing the work centre

In 1969, the Finnish Association of People with Physical Disabilities (FPD) donated 2,000 Finnish Marks (1 € = approx 6 FIM) to enable the foundation of a workshop. Then, on July 13th 1970, the directorate of Vaasan Invalidit ry (Vaasa’s Registered Association of People with Physical Disabilities) agreed to establish a workshop centre. In the same year, the FPD granted FIM 20,000 to start the workshop and lent FIM 10,000 to support the action as well. Vaasan Invalidit ry’s Chairman at that time, John Syring, and the Executive Director of the FPD, Martti Väyrynen, did the preparatory work in this project At the same meeting, a committee was elected to handle the business of the workshop. As John Syring was elected Chairman, the rest of the committee was formed of four other members of Vaasan Invalidit ry and one member of both Tuberkuloosiyhdistys (The Association of People with Tuberculosis) and Sokeainyhdistys (The Association of People with Visual Impairments).

The need for money was substantial. Vaasan Invalidit ry worked hard to earn money for the workshop by organising tax-free dances, women’s football matches and moped races, among other things. From the money earned, the workshop received its share and the Lions’ Club of Vaasa also made a donation to support it.

However, in 1971, the workshop was forced to make an appeal for FIM 2,000 to the directorate of the association. In 1972, the workshop had to get its first bank loan in order to support the business. On 21 February 1973, a significant decision was made. It was decided that henceforth people not subject to Disability Services Act could also undergo work trials and coaching at the workshop. This decision expanded the workshop’s operations.

In 1976, the workshop applied for another bank loan. The security for this loan was the Chairman’s owner-occupied flat. At the time there was also a significant lack of tools so the foreman even brought his own tools to the workshop.

Name of the work centre

Originally the work centre was called Vaasan Invalidien Työpaja (Vaasa’s Workshop for People with Disabilities) As the business expanded and increasingly became a “manufacturing industry”, there was a need to get rid of the “workshop image”, and in 1987 the name was changed to Vaasan Invalidien Työkeskus (Vaasa’s Work Centre for People with Disabilities). For the same reason, and partly due to the wishes of employees of sheltered work and from a marketing point of view, the name was changed again to FINVAC in 1992 (with the word ‘inva’ in the middle). Finally, at the beginning of 2005, Finvac became a limited company and at the same time its name became Finvacon Oy.

Administration

Finvacon Oy is currently owned 100% by Vaasan seudun invalidit ry.

The highest authority in Finvacon is held by the board of four members, who are elected among Vaasan Invalidit ry’s members, and to whom the Managing Director reports. Decisions of the board are prepared by a work committee consisting of the Managing Director and two members of the board.

A five-person Management Group including the Managing Director serves as support to the operational management of the Managing Director. The company’s organisation is divided up into business areas. Through its members of the Management Group, all six business areas are represented in the Management Group, as are basic functions.

Personnel

Since the very beginning of operations, the disabled have played a key role in the company’s activities.

The employees of sheltered work are people with either physical or mental limitations in working ability. The number of these employees has remained quite the same throughout the years and has only varied between 20 and 30 employees.

Since 1987, Finvacon has also employed so-called assistance workers who are of normal working ability but perform the same jobs as the employees of sheltered work and help to guide them in their tasks.

When the manufacturing expanded in 1994 and 1995, it became necessary to hire more people. The decision was made that workers of normal working ability were to be hired in order to be able to deliver all orders. The number of these workers has varied over the years. In 1999 there were five of them, whereas in 2009 their number had already increased to 20 (excluding the assistance workers).

These days, one of the absolute strengths of Finvacon is the efficient uniting in production of people of so-called normal working ability and people with different kinds of limited ability. In 2014, of Finvacon’s 100 employees about 60 were people with work limitations. Every year, the company also employs 30-40 young people on work experience and trainees from colleges. Although the company these days operates on the principles of normal business activity, social employment still plays a key role in its operations and the desire remains to keep things that way in the future.

Most of the company’s earnings are used to improve conditions for the company and its employees, to purchase safe and appropriate machinery and for all kinds of improvement of working conditions. We also use our assets for our personnel’s workplace health promotion (TYKY) and for free-time recreation.

Premises

Since the establishment of the workshop, business has been conducted in rented premises (owned by Palosaaren Yrityskeskus). The original premises were located on the first and second floors, which was inconvenient, especially for people with physical disabilities. In 1984, however, proper premises were arranged on the ground floor. Then in 1993, we moved to the current location at Kalastajankatu 14, and in 2005 the Wood Department moved to Strömberg Park (an industrial area) where there is about 2,000 m2 of space for production. At present, there is a total of about 4,000 m² of premises.

Finance

Until 1984, the benefits that the work centre received were based on yearly applied state aid and aid that had to be separately applied for from local government. State aid was granted for 55% of the fixed operating costs. The amount of state aid was reviewed every year on the basis of last year’s figures and then adjusted in the following year’s aid. The earnings of the work centre had to cover material costs, employees’ wages, social expenses and more. 1982 for instance was critical and there was even debate about whether the work centre should be closed because increasing wages were outstripping earnings.

The company’s turnover has, however, increased steadily, both within existing departments and through the establishment of new ones. The setting up of the Pressboard Department in 1994 in particular had a considerable impact on sales revenue.

From 1985 to 2003, the ratio of sales revenue to outsourced service payments has changed so that the proportion of sales revenue in the total income has risen from 42% to 78%.On its own initiative, the work centre became liable to turnover and income taxes in 1993. Four years later, Finvac appealed to the National Board of Taxes, hoping that it would lower its income tax liability, but the decision was negative due to competition considerations.

History of the departments

Wood and Pressboard Department

The wood department was established at the same time as the work centre Production has included different kinds of furniture, household utensils and transport equipment. Nowadays the majority of our products are insulation components for transformers.

Metal Department

This department was established at the same time as the work centre. Production includes different kinds of steel and metal work. The methods used in the manufacturing are milling, turning and welding, among others. Almost all production consists of subcontracting work.

Engraving Department

ADP-based plate engraving started in 1990 and eight years later Finvac purchased a new laser engraving machine. Later purchases included another laser engraving machine in 2003 and the VersaCAMM VP-300 sticker machine in 2009.

Sewing and Assembly Departments (both operations wound up)

The Sewing Department had also been a part of the business since the establishment of the work centre. Over the years, however, work declined and the department was closed as it became unprofitable. The Assembly Department started manufacturing doll’s houses in the 1970s but it too had to be wound up in 1996 because it was unprofitable. The Sewing and Assembly Departments were originally run by the same supervisors as the laundry.

Laundry

The laundry was established in 1987 to operate alongside the sewing department, and it has been operating ever since. The deliveries are taken to the customer in the company’s own van. In 1999, the laundry also began to wash carpets as a new business activity.

Assembly Department

The Department of People with Disabilities was founded in 1987. The initiative for this action was taken by the City of Vaasa, which reserved 15 vacancies for people with disabilities, all of which were soon filled. In 1994 the City of Vaasa reserved 20 of these vacancies, but in 2004 it went back to the former number of 15. At first there were only one instructor and one assistance worker in the department but in 1989 another instructor was hired. The work of the department includes inhouse products as well as subcontracting work. Fine examples of the department’s own products are different items of handicraft. The subcontracting work includes jobs such as gluing, bagging and packing screws and nuts. Since 2013, the department’s official name has been the Assembly Department.

Work bank

Finvacon’s latest department is the work bank, which began its operations in 2013. Its purpose is to get people of limited working ability, the long-term unemployed and uneducated young people recruited at other companies by staff leasing, direct recruitment, apprenticeships and subcontracting. About 50 employees were recruited by other companies in 2014.