Jyrki Hollmén (left), head of labour market affairs at Finnish Forest Industries, and Turja Lehtonen (right), deputy chairperson at the Industrial Union, met at the office of National Conciliator Vuokko Piekkala in Helsinki on 13 February 2020. (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

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THE INDUSTRIAL UNION has called off its strikes, overtime bans and other industrial actions in the mechanical forest industry after striking a new collective bargaining agreement with Finnish Forest Industries.

The agreement is based on a settlement proposal tabled by National Conciliator Vuokko Piekkala.

The Industrial Union on Sunday said it will put an end to all of its strikes, sympathy strikes and overtime bans in the industry, as well as suspend all industrial actions in the bioproduct sector where it is continuing its collective bargaining talks with Finnish Forest Industries. Its members began to return to work at 10pm on Sunday.

Turja Lehtonen, the deputy chairperson of the Industrial Union, voiced his relief that the two labour market organisations found common ground after “exceptionally painstaking and difficult” negotiations.

He viewed that the agreement was the best possible outcome in the circumstances and satisfied the main objectives of the roughly 200,000-member union: it fosters the purchasing power of employees by guaranteeing wage increases of 3.3 per cent over its 25-month term and does away with the unpaid 24-hour increase in annual working time adopted under the competitiveness pact.

“We achieved two of our central objectives and fought off the negative amendments proposed by the employer. The thanks for this belong especially to our members who participated in the industrial actions,” said Lehtonen.

The Industrial Union and Finnish Forest Industries agreed to compensate for the removal of the working-time increase by providing employers with an opportunity to increase paid working time by three days within certain restrictions.

Finnish Forest Industries said yesterday the new collective bargaining agreement ensures production facilities can remain in continuous operation because employers employers will still be able to take advantage of additional working hours in weeks with public holidays on weekdays.

“The working time and uptime of factories will not change. Local bargaining opportunities at factories will expand considerably,” summed up Jyrki Hollmén, the head of labour market affairs at Finnish Forest Industries.

He pointed out that the terms and conditions of employment made continuous operation so expensive for employers that they had practically no option but to suspend work at sawmills and plywood mills and glued-laminated timber facilities for the weekend.

“Now sawmills and plywood mills may even be able to ramp up production. The solutions support employment because more production can make it possible to provide more work,” he noted.

Finnish production plants, he added, will be able to better respond to demand due to the removal of regulations on the timing of annual leave. Employees are now able to divide their annual leave into several periods and move it outside the peak period in the summer, which is also expected to reduce the need to temporarily lay off staff during off-peak seasons.

Finnish Forest Industries on Sunday also voiced its disapproval with the actions of the Industrial Union, accusing the trade union of dragging on the talks for months by refusing to yield on the issue of working time.

“We could have found common ground on the new agreements last autumn, when we still had industrial peace. The labour market system is fundamentally flawed because it makes this kind of activity possible,” said Hollmén.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi

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