Strikes by the Finnish Paperworkers’ Union this spring have to date caused production losses totalling about 300,000 tonnes. This corresponds to about five days’ output. Financial losses amount to about €40 million per day. So far, companies have been able to supply their customers’ requirements from mills outside Finland. About 60 per cent of the Finnish paper industry’s total capacity is located abroad.
The Finnish Forest Industries Federation representing the employers, and the Finnish Paperworkers’ Union do not currently have a valid collective labour agreement. The changes to the collective agreement that the Federation wishes to secure are of vital importance to the paper industry and would help improve its productivity. The aim is to remove inter alia the clauses providing for obligatory Christmas and Midsummer shutdowns as well as the restrictions on the use of subcontractors, which do not apply to mills outside Finland nor to any other sector of industry in Finland. The wages of workers in the paper industry can be increased only if productivity-enhancing changes are made to the collective labour agreement.
On 30 March the Finnish Paperworkers’ Union declared an overtime ban in the sector in order to add momentum to the negotiations. Since the beginning of the overtime ban it has organised over 45 illegal strikes and caused the shutdown of well over a hundred paper machines. These strikes are illegal, because the 14 days’ notice of them that Finnish law requires has not been given.
In addition, the Union organised an illegal strike beginning on 27 April and affecting virtually the whole of the pulp and paper industry until 2 May. Now the Union has given notice of a two-day strike in May. The strike is due to begin in the pulp industry on Sunday evening 15 May and in the paper and paperboard industry in the early hours of Monday 16 May. It would end on the morning of Wednesday 18 May.
The Finnish Forest Industries Federation has declared a lockout with the aim of speeding up the negotiations. The possible lockout would start 18 May and last two weeks.
From now on further negotiations between the parties will take place under the auspices of the National Conciliator.
Arto Tähtinen, Senior Vice President, Labour Market Policy, Finnish Forest Industries Federation, tel. +358 9 132 4442, firstname.lastname@example.org