Despair as UPM strike extended for third time

UPM: Union "seems to be playing for time" at the expense of their members and UPM’s businesses
UPM: Union "seems to be playing for time" at the expense of their members and UPM’s businesses

Printers, print buyers and paper merchants are in despair after UPM announced that strike action at its Finnish mills could be extended for a third time and by a further three weeks – until 12 March.

Today (4 February), the group said that the Finnish Paperworkers’ Union had informed UPM of another extension to the strike action, which began on 1 January and has already been extended twice. 

The already complicated situation has hit a further potential snag because the Paperworkers’ Union has invited the UPM Pulp business to negotiations on Monday (7 February) with the CLA (collective labour agreements) advisory board, which includes board members from companies that compete with UPM. 

“Due to anti-trust compliance, genuine negotiations on UPM’s business-specific issues could not be conducted,” UPM stated.

UPM reiterated its stance that business-specific collective labour agreements were essential as far as it was concerned, and accused the union of “playing for time”.

In a statement, Jyrki Hollmén, UPM’s vice president for labour markets, said: “It is impossible for us to have representatives of our competitors attend our negotiations. Unfortunately, week after week the Paperworkers’ Union seems to be playing for time at the expense of their members and UPM’s businesses. 

“It is clear, that the Union is not ready for business-specific negotiations. This is also reflected in the fact that invitation has been sent to just one of our businesses, the pulp business. To minimise the significant damage caused by the strike, all five negotiation tables need to be opened,” he stated. 

The union also issued a statement, and said it had taken the initiative to negotiate: “The Paper Association expects UPM to understand the reasons for the five-week strike for significant reasons. The seriousness of the situation is also evidenced by the fact that other unions are supporting UPM's strike workers with their own blockade measures. In addition, the international trade union movement is very concerned about the impact of UPM's goals on the Finnish contract culture.”

The UPM strike is causing problems in the already pressurised paper supply chain. Both Intergraf and Finat have flagged the serious industry-wide issues around paper price rises, ballooning lead times and the fact that some products are having to be supplied on allocation due to shortages. 

Prior to news of the latest extension, a UK web offset printer had already warned clients that they had already been informed that February and March orders from Finland “will initially be delayed by nine weeks, so some paper required in March might not arrive until May”.

One print buyer commented: “Think of what it is doing to all of the big web boys, the big publishers and daily newspapers… they must be getting hammered.”

UPM has not yet disclosed any estimates of how much the strike might cost the group. It reiterated its intention to service customers from mills outside Finland “to the extent possible”.

At the end of last month, AKT the Finnish Transport Workers’ Union commenced a blockade against UPM to support the strikes of the Finnish Paperworkers’ Union and the Finnish Electrical Workers’ Union.

This week the Paperworkers’ Union (Paperiliitto) said the Confederation of Finnish Industry is also suspending service and maintenance work at UPM's mills that are affected by the strike, to support union’s industrial action.

The UPM mills affected are:

  • UPM Jämsänkoski (graphic papers including uncoated magazine paper and specialty papers)
  • UPM Kymi (WFC and WFU graphic papers including Finesse and Fine)
  • UPM Kaukas (LWC graphic papers including Ultra and Star)
  • UPM Rauma (LWC magazine papers)
  • UPM Tervasaari (specialty release liner base papers)
  • UPM Raflatac Tampere (labels)

In addition the UPM Kymi, UPM Pietarsaari and UPM Kaukas pulp mills are also included, as is the UPM Kaukas biorefinery.