Since January 1st, employees at UPM – the leading Finnish paper mill company – have been striking to bring about a new agreement surrounding working conditions and pay, as negotiated by the Paperworkers’ Union.
These strikes have encompassed all work at UPM paper mills that would not “endanger life, health, or the environment” as stipulated by the Helsinki District Court. In February, it appeared that the strike would come to a head and an agreement would be reached, as the first negotiations between the union and UPM were scheduled for the 7th of that month, with more negotiations allegedly scheduled for later that week.
At the time, UPM CEO Jussi Pesonen announced UPM’s commitment to reaching a satisfactory agreement for both the Paperworkers’ Union and the five UPM branches involved, stating that “five business-specific agreements” were being developed.
However, it appears that no agreement has been reached as of yet. Since its commencement, the UPM strike has been extended five times, with the most recent extension being announced last week (March 16), after strikes were scheduled to come to a close on April 2nd. Even before latest two extensions of the UPM strike, innumerable UPM-reliant paper and printing corporations had begun warning their clients of more than two months delays on paper and printing orders.
Moreover, as a result of the prolonged strike, a number of UPM employees have permanently resigned.
Consequently, there is a growing fear that – even when an agreement is reached by the Paperworkers’ Union and UPM – further delays will ensue if employees continue to leave the company, as there may not be sufficient personnel to man the machines once the strikes come to a close.
Now, the strikes are expected to continue until mid-April, unless an agreement can be reached by UPM and the Paperworkers’ Union before that time. Based on the historical evidence, it seems unlikely that a conclusion will be reached before then.
Over the last few weeks, the Paperworkers’ Union and UPM have been engaged in “one-on-one negotiations” according to UPM labour markets Vice Present Jyrki Hollmén. Despite this, it has been reported that the two entities aren’t yet close to reaching a conclusive agreement.
Despite the uncertainty, leading suppliers of paper and packaging solutions in the UK, such as Fortoak, are doing everything possible to ensure that the strikes in UPM’s Finnish paper mills have as little impact as possible on their customers, as they try to minimise the knock-on effect of the strikes on paper-reliant businesses.
While UPM and the Paperworkers’ Union are ramping up the intensity of their negotiations, since it is in the interest of both parties and paper-dependent industries to have the strikes end as soon as possible, it is unclear when a satisfactory agreement will be reached.
As such, paper-reliant businesses should take measures where possible to prepare for months of possible delays on paper orders.