Lockout looming over food production UPDATED 13.30
Employees' side rejects mediation proposal
UPDATED - see below for latest details
The labour dispute that has closed food processing plants already twice this month could come to an end in the afternoon.
After lengthy negotiations, National Conciliator Esa Lonka put forward a mediation proposal late on Sunday night. The parties to the dispute are to give their responses to Lonka’s proposal at 1:00 pm on Monday.
If both sides accept the mediation proposal, a two-day lockout scheduled to commence on April 26th by the Finnish Food and Drinks Industries Federation (ETL) and a new strike warning for May 5th to 10th issued by the Finnish Food Workers' Union (SEL) will both be cancelled.
If no settlement is reached, the management side threatens to begin a lockout today, Monday at 6:00 pm. The lockout would further limit the selections of food at supermarkets.
The lockout would apply to 235 companies and it would effectively mean a stop to production and to the payment of wages of around 18,000 workers belonging to SEL.
The Finnish Bakery Association has recommended its members join in a rare sympathy lockout, which would close another 250 bakeries.
The talks between the representatives of ETL and SEL began on Sunday afternoon at the National Conciliator’s Office, continuing until late Sunday night.
National Conciliator Esa Lonka said that the negotiations were difficult. According to Lonka, the main reason for the dispute continues to be the new working-hours model put forward by the management side.
”However, I saw fit to submit a mediation proposal and to give the parties involved in the talks a possibility to find a way out of this labour conflict”, Lonka noted.
The pending worker lockout would in fact be much more extensive than the recent three-day strike by Finnish food workers, which affected only 57 food production plants.
The impact of last week’s industrial action by SEL can still be seen on the shelves at grocery stores and markets. Particularly the selections of meat, bread, and beverages have been more limited than normal.
Today, supermarkets cannot or are unwilling to evaluate what kind of impact the potential lockout would have on their selections.
”In any case, we are a little worried about Vappu (May 1st). We have been promised that all deliveries will be made around midweek, but whether it will really happen...”, contemplates Maria Puhakka from K-Extra Puhakka in Turku.
Traditional Vappu foods, including mead and funnel cakes will not run out, as they have been made in good time. Even frankfurters and potato salad - another Vappu staple - are likely to suffice, as they can be stored for a reasonable time.
Mediation proposal rejected - lockout to begin from 18:00
The industrial strife in the foodstuffs industry is set to continue. On Monday morning, the employees' side in the dispute rejected the mediation proposal put forward by National Conciliator Esa Lonka.
As a result of the impasse, the next phase will be a lockout imposed by the employers of the Finnish Food and Drinks Industries Federation (ETL), to begin from 18:00 today (see above).
The employees' side, represented by the Finnish Food Workers' Union (SEL), will in their turn begin a five-day stoppage from May 5th.
The lockout, which will affect hundreds of factories in the meat processing and other sectors, will be more widespread in its impact than the recent 3-day strike by SEL members, and will be certain to reduce the assortments on supermarket shelves in the run-up to the traditional spring celebrations of Vappu (May Eve and May Day).
FACTFILE: A lockout is the employer side’s heaviest weapon
A strike or a lockout is a legitimate part of the collective bargaining process if the collective agreement is not in effect.
A labour action is called a strike when employees who belong to a trade union refuse to work.
A lockout is the employer side’s equivalent to strike action on the employee front. A lockout effectively means putting a stop to production and to the payment of wages.
The use of a lockout as a weapon to exert pressure on the employee side is rare. In the 1970s and 1980s it was used mainly in the construction sector. In the 1990s a lockout was used a few times in connection with strikes.
An advance notice of both a strike and a lockout has to be issued two weeks prior to the beginning of the pending industrial action to both the counter party and to the National Conciliator’s Office.
On the initiative of the National Conciliator, the Ministry of Labour may postpone the beginning of an industrial action by two weeks, if the threatened action could for example cause excessive inconvenience.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Three-day strike in food production begins (21.4.2010)
One food strike is averted; a bigger one is still pending, as is lockout from employers´ side (12.4.2010)
Food workers start three-day strike at selected bakeries and meat processing plants (7.4.2010)
Foodstuffs strike caused supermarket bread and meat selections to become more limited (23.4.2010)
Food Workers´ Union strike brings crowds to supermarkets (22.4.2010)
Office of the National Conciliator
The Finnish Food and Drinks Industries Federation (ETL)
The Finnish Food Workers´ Union (SEL)