Forest industry threatens two-week lockout at pulp and paper mills
The Finnish Forest Industries’ Federation threatened on Monday to impose a two-week lockout at Finnish pulp and paper mills in late May.
According to the plan, the payment of wages would stop on Wednesday, May 18th if no incomes agreement is reached in the industry before that. The Paperworkers’ Union has issued a warning of a strike that would begin on May 15th and end on the 18th. The situation in the sector remains tense. On Monday, pulp and paper mills started up again after widespread wildcat strike action which began last week.
The Forest Industries' Federation says that the industrial action would apply to members of the Paperworkers' Union and the Electrical Workers' Union, but not to office workers in the industry.
Such long lockouts are very unusual in Finnish industrial relations. According to Arto Tähtinen, head of labour market affairs at the Finnish Forest Industries' Federation, the aim is to give more momentum to mediation efforts in the ongoing labour dispute.
Paperworkers' Union leader Jouko Ahonen sees the move as an effort to pressure workers at pulp and paper mills to accept a deterioration of terms of employment. In his view, the management side had tried to provoke the workers into implementing a long strike, and when that did not work, it had to resort to a lockout.
Ahonen also said that the implementation of a lockout would make tripartite labour market cooperation involving labour, management, and government more difficult.
The pulp and paper industry opted out of the broad-based incomes agreement reached in the autumn. Key bones of contention between union and management include industry demands for the elimination of the Christmas and Midsummer holiday shutdowns, and for the first two days of sick leave to be unpaid.
Management also wants to be able to impose 12-hour work days, and to split staff holidays into segments to better correspond to the needs of production.
Negotiations aimed at reaching a settlement in the dispute continued at the office of National Conciliator Juhani Salonius on Monday.
The talks are scheduled to continue today, Tuesday.
Paper workers in Sweden have considered various options to support their Finnish counterparts in the ongoing dispute. Lennart Olovsson, chairman of the Swedish Paper Workers Union, has said that his union is ready to help the Finnish workers.
Olovsson is in Helsinki today to discuss the situation with the Finnish Paperworkers' Union.
He said that the workers in Sweden are dealing with the same employers, and that they could soon face similar pressure.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Pulp and paper mills starting up again after wildcat stoppages (2.5.2005)
Finnish paper workers issue strike warning - support promised from abroad (29.4.2005)
Industrial action stops all paper and pulp mills until Friday morning (28.4.2005)