Leeann Foster, IndustriALL co-chair of the Pulp and Paper Sector fires up the USW Conference "Stand up. Speak out. For safety."
The Pulp and Paper Work Group of IndustriALL Global Union brings together leading trade unions in the sector to plan and coordinate joint work. At the meeting on 4 April in Pittsburgh hosted by the United Steelworkers (USW), the unions exchanged information on employment, bargaining and the industry as a whole, and made campaign plans.
The pulp and paper unions from USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, UK, Sweden and Finland all reported challenging situations for members as the industry is becoming less attractive to young workers.
A large subsector of the industry is shrinking as people communicate more and more electronically, but tissue and packaging subsectors will continue to grow but are beginning to suffer from overcapacity. Production is shifting geographically across the sector, from the global North to South, and from West to East.
Many pulp and paper jobs have moved from North America and Europe to China. Now as China’s domestic growth slows the country has massive overcapacity in pulp and paper as across the industrial sectors, causing oversaturation of the market and yet more threat to jobs elsewhere.
The co-chairs of the sector for IndustriALL, Leeann Foster of USW and Petri Vanhala, president of Finnish paper workers union Paperiliitto led discussions.
Co-chair Leeann Foster said:
“Only by standing together as paper workers in all countries can we ensure good, safe and sustainable jobs in the sector. Just as the USW is aiming to organize more workers in the multinational paper companies, we must think globally in our campaigns.”
The group examined current and future global framework agreements in the sector and existing trade union networks at International Paper, Huhtamaki, Sappi, Smurfit Kappa, Mondi and in the Latin American region.
The Work Group will conduct a regular and structured information exchange on employment and bargaining in the sector.
The meeting was held in conjunction with the USW 2016 Paper Sector Conference “Stand Up. Speak Out. For Safety.” The 550 delegates representing members at around 30 major pulp and paper companies focused discussions on safety and honoured the 19 brothers and sisters killed in the sector since the last paper conference two years ago.
As well as detailed debates on organizing and bargaining, the conference talked about the importance of being politically active as a union.
In his speech to the conference plenary, IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan said:
“I salute you, dear Sisters and Brothers, for the inspirational leading role the USW has played down the years at the heart of the global labour movement. Working in the paper industry can be very dangerous. We must build our trade union networks at paper companies to connect workers, share experiences and collective bargaining successes, but also to act as one to reject dangerous plants and mills.”