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Salaried Staff in Finland’s Pulp and Paper Industry Brace for Strike Actions

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2 June, 2008

Today in Helsinki, Toimihenkilöunioni TU, the Union of Salaried Employees of Finland, issued a 14-day strike notice against companies aligned with the Finnish Forest Industries Federation. The union’s Paper Industry Bargaining Council, and then the ICEM affiliated trade union’s Executive Committee, voted in back to back sessions for industrial action across the country’s pulp and paper sector.

The strike notice, filed under the country’s Employment Contracts Act, could mean 6,500 salaried, technical, and professional workers begin taking rolling strike actions against 100 employers on 16 June. It is expected that Stora Enso salaried staff will begin the actions at all but two mills on 16 June, with staff at other companies to then strike in the following weeks if an agreement is not reached.

The union and employers’ association have bargained since 11 April over a contract that expired Saturday, 31 May. The association entered talks again on 29 May by announcing they would not budge on unresolved issues.

Those issues include offering no pay increases, agreeing to no job security, retraining, or other financial cushioning in the event of redundancies, and refusal to meet pay equity differences with Paperiliitto, the pulp and paperworkers’ union which reached accord with the Forest Industries Federation in April.

“The ICEM has been monitoring TU’s talks with the industry for the past six weeks,” said General Secretary Manfred Warda, “and we are disturbed by the lack of employer movement. We now will alert our trade union affiliates globally, within these relevant companies, of this dispute but we urge the Finnish employers to return to talks and to make meaningful progress toward a renewal contract.”

In Finland, TU represents 1,000 salaried staff at Stora Enso, 1,000 staff at UPM, as well as less numbers of workers at major pulp and paper producers M-Real, Myllykoski, and Metsä-Botnia. The negotiations also cover salaried staff at a number of other global paper producers, and staff inside power generating facilities, pulp and paper maintenance companies, and paper converting firms.

The industry has turned a deaf ear to a TU proposal for six months of pay and re-training for staff made redundant; to a 12-month special job security and training measure to protect shop stewards and health and safety personnel that might face redundancy; a bonus for staff who train other salaried personnel; and travel time for staff moving from one site to another.

Since 2000, the pay gap between TU members and Paperiliitto members has widened because of smaller pay raises on the national level, and greater job development incentives for blue-collar workers at mill level. Since 2000, Finnish pulp and paper companies have shed some 1,500 jobs among TU’s ranks.