Paper mills can choose to adopt new short shift rotation system

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The Finnish Forest Industries Federation and the Finnish Paperworkers’ Union have concluded an agreement that allows mills to adopt a short shift rotation system in 3-shift work. According to the latest research the new system will promote occupational health and reduce sick absences. Shift workers will do two morning shifts, two day shifts, two evening shifts and then have four days off. Paper mills can agree at the local level whether to switch to the new system. There are around 13,000 workers doing continuous 3-shift work in the Finnish pulp and paper mills.

Studies conducted by occupational health institutes have shown that rapid shift rotation can significantly reduce the negative effects of shift work. In the short rotation system two morning, evening and night shifts are followed by four days off. Workers have time to rest between morning and evening shifts and between evening and night shifts. Workers do not build up a sleep deficit and can remain alert during night shifts. Disturbances in people’s circadian rhythm and social life are thus minimized.

"By adopting the short shift rotation system we want to reduce paper workers’ absences in order to raise productivity. Studies show that the system improves occupational health, which cuts costs resulting from absences. For several years we have cooperated with workers to find ways to reduce absences and have managed to bring accidents down, for example," says Arto Tähtinen, Senior Vice President, Labour Market Policy, at the Finnish Forest Industries Federation.

At present the pulp and paper industry uses a shift system in which workers do four morning shifts followed by a day off, four evening shifts followed by a day off and four night shifts followed by six days off. Shifts rotate counterclockwise: from morning shift to evening shift and then to night shift. The advantage of the old system is having six days off in a row. The disadvantage is having to work four consecutive nights.

The Finnish Forest Industries Federation and the Finnish Paperworkers’ Union concluded a new collective agreement on 1 July 2005. At that time some issues concerning working times were entrusted to a joint working group. The working group will continue the dialogue on the rules for shortening working hours (by eight hours for shift workers and four hours for day workers), the distribution of leave according to the Annual Holidays Act and the introduction of a working time bank.

Additional information:

Arto Tähtinen, Senior Vice President, Labour Market Policy,
Finnish Forest Industries Federation
Tel. +358 9 132 4442,