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SAPPI trade union network builds worker power

10 September, 2014Shop stewards and trade union representatives of workers at the SAPPI paper company came together last week to build the foundations of their global trade union network.

Responding to a common trend throughout SAPPI’s international operations of cuts to employment conditions and attacks on trade union rights, the SAPPI trade unions created the first IndustriALL company network in the paper sector a year ago, in June 2013.

The 3-4 September meeting was conducted in Brussels and hosted by IndustriALL’s Belgian affiliates representing SAPPI workers at the two confederations ACV/BIE and ABVV/FGTB. Twenty-two participants from USA, Germany, Belgium and IndustriALL participated.

The network builds power and solidarity between SAPPI unions through important information exchange and comparisons of company tactics in the respective plants in different countries. 

Common concerns of SAPPI workers regardless of the country include increased outsourcing, retrenchment without reduced workload, increased outsourcing and precarious working contracts, health and safety concerns, and workers being played off against each other by management. An example of a common anti worker tactic is SAPPI’s two-tier contracts that make it increasingly difficult for unions to organise new and young workers.

The network agreed its plan of action going forward continuing its exercise of mapping union strength throughout the company, and continue to build its unity going forward.

The network elected Peter Schuld of IG BCE as its new president for the coming two years.

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina stated:

The SAPPI trade union network now stands as an example to others for building power and unity amongst workers inside a multinational.  We will continue to build the foundations and establish a strong counterweight to this company.

Sappi has approximately 13,500 employees in over 20 countries in Africa, North America and Europe. Sappi’s paper production capacity is 5.6 million tons a year, paper pulp production is 3.5 million tons a year, and is the world's largest manufacturer of dissolving wood pulp with production capacity of 1.3 million tons a year.

Sappi’s paper products are used for countless paper products, from magazine covers to confectionary wrapping, from cigarette packets to jam jar labels.