Unions ask UPM shareholders to act over strike

Pulp, paper and packaging unions held a global online meeting
Pulp, paper and packaging unions held a global online meeting

A trio of global trade unions has written to UPM’s major shareholders warning that the group’s “anti-union stance is an investment risk”.

IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and Building & Wood Workers’ International wrote to UPM’s 20 biggest investors ahead of the UPM AGM, which will take place today (29 March). 

The unions said they believed the long-running strike action at UPM’s Finnish mills was costing the company €20m (£16.9m) a week. 

The strike began 88 days ago on 1 January and has been extended five times, most recently Paper Workers' Union Paperiliitto extended its strike action until at least 16 April.

In the letter the unions said they were concerned “that this damaging ideological attack on trade union rights has escalated to the extent that it threatens the long-term reputation of UPM”, and that because of it customers “will not trust UPM’s commitments and neither will employees and social partners”.

It called on shareholders to put pressure on the €9.8bn turnover group’s leadership to resolve the situation.

“As shareholders and investors, we urge you to pressurise UPM management to agree to negotiations with no preconditions, so that we can return to healthy and constructive industrial relations, productivity and shared prosperity,” the letter stated. 

The unions also flagged the wider industry damage caused by the situation.

“This strike is costing UPM an estimated €20m per week, and is leading to a crisis in the paper supply chain across Europe, with jobs being lost at UPM customer companies. 

“We expect that UPM has provided you with its version of events. It is the view of the global labour movement that this strike is caused by the company’s refusal to bargain in good faith, and the Finnish unions have the support of the global labour movement. UPM is trying to break decades of collective bargaining practice in the industry and at the company. 

“The changes which UPM’s management is trying to force on its workforce – which include denying sections of the workforce the right to union representation – bring no business advantage, and are being pursued for ideological reasons.”

Tom Grinter, IndustriALL director for the pulp and paper sector, commented: “This strike is rock solid. The level of international solidarity and support has been very impressive to see. This is an ill-considered, ideological assault on trade union rights. We have held a series of global meetings with paper unions from around the world, and they are all absolutely committed to ensuring the union prevails.”

Separately, Paperiliitto said that negotiations, guided by mediation, had continued over the weekend and were ongoing this week.

A settlement proposal for UPM’s Pulp business was submitted last week. 

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)