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Finnish forest company UPM attacks workers’ fundamental rights

19 March, 2021One month after promises to conduct collective bargaining, the Finnish forest industry company UPM, announced in the beginning of February 2021 that it would no longer negotiate collectively on wages, bonuses, sick leave pay, maternity or paternity leaves thus violating its workers fundamental rights at work. The company employees demand that the terms of their work should be negotiated collectively with the unions representing them.

UPM is a multinational company having production plants in 12 countries and employing 18,000 employees among others represented by IndustriALL affiliates. The company is specialized in production of pulp and paper, timber and wood-based and associated goods and services.

Nearly 40 representatives of UPM’s employees in Finland wrote an open letter to the company management to express their deep concern over UPM’s inappropriate action.

The workers are outraged, as only in January the company promised to renew negotiations of the terms of employment and underlined how the collective labour agreements are beneficial to both the employees and the business.

However, already on 8 February UPM suddenly announced about their decision not to negotiate the terms of employment of its salaried employees at any level. Instead, the conditions would be determined without any collective agreement, meaning in practice that they would be unilaterally dictated by the employer.

In their open letter, the UPM employees strongly question the consistency of this conduct with the company’s values about mutual trust and believe this will inevitably affect their work motivation. Workers demand that the company keeps its promises and demonstrates its responsibility by undertaking collective bargaining negotiations on salaried employees with unions representing them.

In full solidarity IndustriALL Global Union joined the demands of the UPM workers and their unions. In his letter to the company Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary said :

"IndustriALL Global Union finds your attempt to jettison a well-established system of collective negotiation unacceptable. If UPM continues down this path, it will be a long-remembered betrayal of your employees that came in the centre of a global pandemic that is already causing massive damage and upheaval for workers and their communities. There can be no other explanation for breaking such a well-established collective bargaining system, other than to facilitate a subsequent company attack on rights and conditions of all employees. We will oppose this."

Sanches further wrote:

"We urge UPM to desist from trying to impose individual terms and conditions of employment via individual appraisals. Instead, UPM should live up to its promises and demonstrate its responsibility by undertaking collective bargaining negotiations with our affiliated unions, Finnish Paper Workers’ Union Paperiliitto, the Finnish Industrial Union Teollisuusliitto, and Trade Union Pro."

In February the union delegates of the network of federations and unions of the pulp and paper sector in Latin America expressed their solidarity with their Finnish colleagues. Latin American unions are concerned that UPM’s way of acting could spread to other companies and countries. Therefore, they pledged to work together in solidarity to demand legislative measures in their countries that would protect workers’ fundamental rights.


Shutterstock / Riverlake, Upm Kaukaa paper plant pipes in Lappeenranta, Finland

rikumakela / Shutterstock.com, UPM paper mill chimneys, February 14th, 2020