Union confirms UPM strike extension

UPM Raflatac: label paper mills are included in the strike
UPM Raflatac: label paper mills are included in the strike

Finnish Paperworker’s Union Paperiliitto has confirmed that strike action at UPM will be extended into April, and has slammed UPM’s “arrogance towards its own employees”.

The Council of the Paper Association held an extraordinary session in Helsinki yesterday (24 February).

“The only topic of the meeting was UPM's contractual problem,” Paperiliitto stated. 

“Particular attention was paid to UPM's arrogance towards its own employees. The members of the council wondered whether UPM understood that the strike involved the company's employees, not the paper association's Hakaniemi office.”

The union said there were also concerns about the local potential for an agreement once the agreement was finally reached.

Unless an agreement is hammered out, the strike action that has crippled UPM’s Finnish mills since the start of the year will now continue until 6 April.

The knock-on impact on paper availability across Europe is immense. 

Intergraf and pan-European label association FINAT have already warned about the damage caused by the strike. Even prior to the latest extension FINAT had cited “Severe consequences for the label value chain, economy and societies”  if the strike continued, because as well as its own UPM Raflatac products UPM also makes base papers for other label material suppliers.

Jesper Jungersen, Intergraf vice president and managing director of magazine and catalogue printer Aller Tryk in Denmark told the Financial Times that the firm had been forced to cut production by 10% because of paper shortages.

He said: “We fear that people will go digital - it's not caused by the fact that prices are going up but the fact we cannot get enough paper".

Today, BPIF CEO Charles Jarrold told Printweek: "UPM are negotiating, they're taking it very seriously and they hear very clearly the pressures on the industry. Both sides need to reach an accommodation that reflects the realities of business. That's in everyone's interest.

"The longer this goes on, the more painful it gets, and it's already really hard."

The national conciliator began the conciliation process on 14 February, with the next meeting with the conciliator taking place today (25 February).

In yesterday’s update, UPM said that “intense negotiations” between the company and the Paperworkers’ Union were continuing. 

Around 200 union members are continuing to work at the mills in tasks deemed critical to society, such as power plants and water treatment.

UPM’s share price fell by 4.7% to €30.60 (£25.56) on news of the strike being extended, and fell further today to €30.10. However, it subsequently recovered slightly and was at €31.41 at the time of writing. (52-week high: €35.68, low: €29.48.)

The UPM mills impacted by the strike action 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 included, as is the UPM Kaukas biorefinery.

Separately, the Paperworkers’ Union has agreed a new collective agreement with the Cardboard and Paper Processors 

The result of the negotiations between the Paper Association and the Cardboard & Paper Processors. 

The fresh agreement is valid from 1 March 2022 to 29 February 2024. From 1 May wages will be increased by a general increase of €0.22 per hour. A local lot of 10 cents times the number of employees covered by the collective agreement in the cardboard and paper processing sector will be available for each company or establishment on 31.3.2022.