60th anniversary of first collective agreement in the Finnish paper industry

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The first collective agreement in the Finnish paper industry was signed on 10 December 1945. In 1945 the employers’ association in the wood processing sector had 54 members with a total of 39,947 workers. The 43rd collective agreement in the paper industry was signed on 1 July 2005. Nowadays there are about 25,000 workers in the paper industry.

The first collective agreement concerned pay and working conditions at paper and pulp mills belonging to the employers’ association in the wood processing sector. Among other things the parties agreed to raise the notice period from 7 days to 14 days and to allow mills to take on non-union workers. In three-shift work the 19th shift from Sunday evening to Monday morning was eliminated.

Shortening of work hours

In the paper industry shift workers had a 48-hour week and other employees a 47-hour week up to the mid-1950s. In the mid-1960s shift workers’ 42-hour week was reduced to 40 hours on average.

In 2006 3-shift workers in the Finnish paper industry will work 1,611 hours according to the collective agreement. In practice real work hours including overtime and absences will be nearly three weeks shorter than this. In the German paper industry, for example, workers put in about 200 hours more a year. Germany is the biggest paper producer in Europe.

Pay formation takes place at mills

At the beginning of the 1940s pay in the paper industry was based on a minimum wage agreement and five-step local increments. In the 1950s a production bonus system was introduced. This was replaced by an hourly wage system in the 1960s, when it was also agreed that work would be done at maximum efficiency. In 1971 a biweekly pay system was introduced.

In the paper industry pay formation takes place at mills, where each worker’s hourly wages are agreed. There are no standard wages or wage scales based on the collective agreement. General pay increases are agreed between the employers’ federation and the union.

First steps toward the use of outside labour

In 1969 the employers’ federation and the union agreed on the use of outside labour and prepared guidelines for the forest industry. The use of outside labour did not become a flexible part of everyday activities, however. In 1995 the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that restrictions on the use of outside labour were illegal.

In 2000 the collective agreement was amended to allow the use of outside labour provided this was separately agreed by the employers’ federation and the union. The procedure was still not implemented in practice, however, and the matter was a key point of contention up to the final stretch of the 2005 collective agreement negotiations.

The collective agreement that was signed in July 2005 contains new rules concerning how differences of opinion regarding the use of outside labour can be resolved and progress can be made in unresolved situations. Agreements on the use of outside labour have already been reached at several mills according to the new rules.

Additional information:

Arto Tähtinen, Senior Vice President, Labour Market Policy, Finnish Forest Industries Federation, tel. +358 9 132 4442
E-mail: firstname.lastname@forestindustries.fi