29 April, 2022Paperiliitto members at UPM returned to work on 23 April after 112 days of strike that brought the company to a standstill at all sites in Finland.
The IndustriALL affiliated Paperiliitto led an inspirational strike against the company’s attack on union rights and employment conditions. The 2,200 members resisted the strike breaking efforts of management, with the strong industrial action receiving significant solidarity support in Finland and internationally.
The conflict was resolved with both parties accepting a final proposal of the National Mediator. Under the proposal, five separate collective bargaining agreements are signed, one for each industrial segment of the company, with a duration of four years and salary renegotiation after two years.
The strike was unprecedented in size in the sector in Finland, and was caused by the anti-union beliefs of UPM’s executive management, determined to break union power held by its blue collar employees, members of Paperiliitto.
This UPM management attack failed to destroy the union, failed to break the collective bargaining system, and failed in its attempt to set pay and conditions unilaterally without Paperiliitto representing workers.
UPM also failed with its insistence to reduce employment conditions including by adding considerable amounts of annual working hours with no increase in wages. The strong strike ultimately forced UPM into accepting the union demand for conditions in line with the industry standard. The new agreement also delivers salary increases that are in line with the industry standard.
UPM’s financial losses from the strike were estimated between two and three million Euros per day, on top of the long term damage done to the company’s reputation with customers, both socially and on its reliability to deliver contractual obligations. Up to €300 million was the estimated total cost to the company of the strike.
The strike also cost members and the national union financially. The Finnish Industrial Union, Teollisuusliitto, another IndustriALL affiliate contributed €2.2 million to the Paperiliitto strike fund.
The company’s ideological attack against union power was also targeted at IndustriALL affiliated white collar union Ammattiliitto Pro. This union’s 500 members at UPM working in white collar positions have had their right to bargain collectively broken by the company’s re-categorization of their contracts. By law UPM is required to maintain the existing labour conditions for these employees, and the union will continue to provide legal advice if the company attempts to reduce benefits.
IndustriALL sector director Tom Grinter said:
“Paperiliitto members at UPM have inspired all paper workers around the world. By standing strong and united against the powerful company’s attack, Paperiliitto members send the message to all paper companies that union rights will not be broken, and the message to all paper workers that collective action can win tough battles.”
Paperiliitto President Petri Vanhala said:
"Thanks to Paperiliitto members at UPM holding the strike strong, a collective agreement was achieved for all of the company. This strike defended the right to bargain. UPM’s behavior was a bad example of industrial relations and we expect that now companies will respect workers more when they see they are capable of 112 days of strike."