Union: UPM mediation is 'ongoing'

IndustriALL members supporting the Finnish union action
IndustriALL members supporting the Finnish union action

Meetings between UPM and the Paperworkers’ Union are continuing this week, but there is still no news on any positive progress that will resolve the crisis.

Paperiliitto said that the mediation that began last week was ongoing. 

“The parties shall hold discussions in accordance with the instructions given by the National Conciliator,” the union stated. 

Jarkko Eloranta, chairman of SAK the Finnish central organisation of trade unions, described the situation as a labour market crusade between Paperiliitto and UPM. 

In a blog post that has been translated from the original Finnish, he said: “Public speeches and organisational solutions show that UPM's management has been preparing for a long time and that the costs of changing the system do not seem to matter. 

“As the situation continues, there will be a shortage of UPM products and prices will rise. Now, unlike before, security of supply does not seem to have any value for the company.”

He said that UPM’s customers were asking SAK what was really going on at the group. 

Eloranta also stated that €10bn turnover UPM is a company in a strong financial position “that does not have to severely reduce the working conditions of its Finnish mills in order to succeed”.

UPM has not yet commented on the likely cost of the strike action at its Finnish paper and pulp mills and biofuels business, but Paperiliitto said that some experts had estimated the cost at up to €20m (£16.75m) a week. 

The situation is causing paper shortages and a Europe-wide crisis in the paper and label materials supply chain. 

UPM customers are also calling for more information. One buyer told Printweek: “We need to understand what the process of prioritisation will be when production re-starts. There is too much uncertainty at the moment about where paper is coming from. The life of a paper buyer has become very difficult.”

In a letter to customers earlier this month, UPM's Communication Papers business said: “As stated earlier, this force majeure event will lead to the postponement of certain orders and we will not be able to accept or confirm all additional orders placed for the duration of the strike. We will inform you on a case-by-case basis if your orders are affected.”

Unions, including Unite in the UK, are also trying to push UPM’s customers to put pressure on the business. 

Global union affiliation IndustriaALL stated: “Convenors for the Unite trade union – also an IndustriALL affiliate – at WestRock and Antalis in the UK were told by their employers of the impending paper shortage and UPM’s claim of force majeure. They approached the Finnish unions for clarity. 

“At a global meeting of pulp and paper unions, the Finnish unions explained the situation and called on unions in other countries to put pressure on their employers to reject the force majeure claim.”

The strike began on 1 January and could continue until 12 March unless an agreement is reached. 

UPM has not issued any comment for almost three weeks.