WIDESPREAD STRIKES began this morning in the pulp and paper industry an unsuccessful last-minute attempt to mediate a settlement to the labour dispute between Finnish Forest Industries and the Finnish Paper Workers’ Union.
The Paper Workers’ Union has estimated that 9,000 of its members will participate in the weeks-long strike that shuts down pulp and paper mills across the country starting at 6am today.
The union announced earlier yesterday it will extend the strike for another week to last until 16 February.
Jyrki Hollmén, the director of industrial relations at Finnish Forest Industries, told STT in the early hours of today that the negotiations were promising but failed to produce a settlement to the dispute. Spokespeople for the Paper Workers’ Union were unavailable for a comment after the suspension of the talks, but the union stated on its website that the parties remained far apart in their views at 9pm on Sunday.
The labour market organisations will re-convene on Tuesday, 28 January, according to the Office of the National Conciliator.
Finnish Forest Industries on Sunday announced it will enforce a lockout at a total of 12 pulp, paper and cardboard mills in an attempt to find an agreement in the negotiations that improves the cost competitiveness of forest industry companies by a minimum of 30 per cent, wrote Helsingin Sanomat.
The three-day lockout will apply to members of Paper Workers’ Union, Trade Union Pro and Finnish Electrical Workers’ Union as of 10 February.
The Industrial Union similarly began a strike in the mechanical forest industry today, stating that around 6,000 of its members will participate in the industrial action at sawmills and plywood mills until 16 February. Also the Industrial Union said yesterday it has decided to extend the strike by a week in protest of the threats made by Finnish Forest Industries.
“The proposals we have received in the negotiations include removing the service-year compensation, cutting the sick-leave wage and halving the number of accrued days off. Cuts would also be made in national holiday compensations,” bemoaned Jyrki Alapartanen, head of wood product sectors at the Industrial Union.
Strikes were also set to begin today in the chemical industry and technology industry, but the start of the two-week strike was postponed by two weeks upon a decision by Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen (SDP).
The act on mediation in labour disputes allows for the postponement of strikes by up to two weeks in circumstances where the strike, due to its scope and duration, is deemed to target critical social functions or cause significant damage to the common good. Neste, for example, has estimated that the effects of the strike would linger for considerably longer than its two-week duration.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT