Industrial action stops all paper and pulp mills until Friday morning
Union expected to issue formal strike warning
Members of the Finnish Paperworkers' Union stopped all of Finland's pulp and paper mills on Wednesday. The workers said that the impromptu stoppage would remain in force until Friday morning.
The action in the inflamed forest industry sector was sparked by a decision of the management of the Anjalankoski factory of the paper manufacturer Stora Enso to keep that factory shut down, and to stop payment of wages until Friday morning.
Meanwhile, no progress was made at on Wednesday in the talks between the union and the Finnish Forest Industries' Federation aimed at a labour contract for the sector, and the Paperworkers' Union is considered likely to issue an official strike warning on Thursday.
Forest Industries' Federation labour market chief Arto Tähtinen accused the Paperworkers' Union of eroding Finland's contract-based society with its constant illegal strike action.
"The employer wants to adapt to globalisation and the changes that it brings, so that the paper industry might be successful in Finland in the future as well", Tähtinen said.
Paperworkers' Union chairman Jouko Ahonen said on Wednesday evening that he expected the union's labour contract committee to issue an official strike warning.
He also said that the situation is so inflamed that outside help would be needed to bridge the gap.
On Tuesday the two sides already met with National Conciliator Juhani Salonius.
Ahonen said that emotions in the field are running high, but that he expected industrial peace to return when the stoppage ends on Friday. However, the ban on overtime will remain in force.
Ahonen called on management to budge at least in matters that are "insignificant from the point of view of productivity and profitability".
Such issues would include management demands that the first two days of sick leave would be unpaid, and for the splitting up of annual holiday.
Ahonen insisted that the stoppages had been decided at the individual workplaces and by local union organisations, and that the national union was not involved in any way. He saw Wednesday's walk-outs to be "demonstrations" rather than actual strikes. He also noted that there is currently no labour contract in force in the sector. The Forest Industries' Federation opted out of last autumn's broad-based incomes agreement.
The situation came to a head when the Anjalankoski factory of Stora Enso stopped the payment of wages to three employees after the factory was forced to stop one paper machine. The move was prompted by a number of absences due to illness.
Ahonen said that the ban on overtime work meant that none of the other factory workers could fill in.
The Anjalankoski facility emptied during the night, but when those on the morning shift showed up at work and were prepared to start up the machinery, the management of the factory said that the employees would not be paid.
The events at Anjalankoski spread rapidly to other Stora Enso factories and to other facilities in the sector.
"This is what happens when you throw petrol into the flames in such an overheated situation", Ahonen said.
Ahonen claimed that the decision to stop the payment of wages was not made by the local management, and that the head office of Stora Enso and the Finnish Forest Industries' Federation were involved in the move.
Previously in HS International Edition:
UPM considers lockout at Finnish paper mills (27.4.2005)
National Conciliator to help seek solution to paper strike threat (26.4.2005)