Two-day strike shuts down entire Finnish pulp and paper industry
Management and labour too far apart for mediation proposal
Efforts to reach a labour contract in Finland’s paper industry failed during the weekend; a two-day strike which stopped all of Finland’s pulp and paper mills began on Monday morning. For technical reasons, the shutdown process of the paper machines began already on Sunday evening.
National Conciliator Juhani Salonius, who presided over talks on Saturday, did not feel that there was enough common ground for him to propose a settlement.
The next meeting of the two sides is scheduled for Tuesday.
The two-day strike by the Paperworkers’ Union is scheduled to end on Wednesday, but if no progress is made in the talks, the Finnish Forest Industries’ Federation threatens to impose a two-week lockout to begin on Wednesday.
The two main bones of contention in the dispute are calls by the management side to keep the factories operating throughout the Christmas and Midsummer holidays without the customary shutdown, as well as industry demands that the union accept the use of more outside labour at pulp and paper plants.
The union is prepared to agree to cancelling the holiday shutdowns, but wants more compensation for such a move than management is willing to offer. The industry has offered money: an extra payment of up to EUR 1,600 for those workers who work on both holidays, in addition to an average 11-hour cut in annual work time for the workers affected. The union wants a longer cut in annual working time which would apply to all employees as compensation for giving up the holiday shutdowns.
Management is also demanding a freer hand in deciding on the outsourcing of cleaning and other operations at paper mills. At present, cleaning staff at paper mills are members of the Paperworkers’ Union, and earn considerably more than other cleaners.
The industry has apparently given up its demands for changes in regulations on sick leave - according to which the first two days of sick leave would be unpaid.
The Executive Committee of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), of which the Paperworkers’ Union is an affiliate member, is discussing the situation in the paper industry at its meeting on Monday. The Construction Workers’ Union and the Chemical Workers’ Union have already indicated a willingness to support the paper workers with action of their own.
Previously in HS International Edition:
SATURDAY UPDATE: Paper strike to begin Sunday (14.5.2005)
Paper industry says union inflexibility could lead to mill closures (9.5.2005)
Forest industry threatens two-week lockout at pulp and paper mills (3.5.2005)