Helsinki (02.02.2022 - Heikki Jokinen) This round of collective agreements has shown that collective bargaining is still the best way to advance the goals of both sides, says the SAK Board. However, in the case of forestry giant UPM, we have a sad example of how ideology has been put before all other goals.

A large number of collective agreements were due to expire around the end of the year 2021. This round of collective bargaining is different than before, as the forest industry terminated all national level agreements and the technology industry handed over collective bargaining to a new national organisation.

In spite of widely expected major difficulties in the labour market, the negotiation round has been running better than expected. The Board of SAK, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions, is happy about this.

The agreements have reached what has been sought: to secure both the income level of employees and the competitiveness of the companies, SAK Board says.

However, the negotiation round is still going on. The SAK Board is very worried about the situation of forestry giant UPM. The strike at UPM paper mills has been going on since 1 January and UPM is still unwilling to unwind tensions by sitting down with the unions.

SAK also asks the National Conciliator to take a stronger role. So far UPM has not been participating in the conciliation process, though by law this is obligatory, SAK says.

"Due to the strike, UPM is losing up to 20 million euro profit a week. How long can the owners just stand aside and watch the company leadership cause serious disruption to the labour market whilst frittering away its owners' money on ideological grounds?", asks Jarkko Eloranta, SAK President.

The other forestry companies have already made a collective agreement with the unions. These agreements should not be anything especially difficult for the employers, SAK says.

"Now, the ones suffering most are UPM's workforce. The employer seems unwilling to acknowledge the competence and work of those it employs", Eloranta says.

Eloranta also points out how Jussi Pesonen, the CEO of UPM, continuously reiterates that any action taken against his line will lead to the closing of UPM units.

He has not even outlined his actual goals for the new collective agreements, just that collective bargaining can only begin if the unions accept his preconditions as to the form of the agreement.

"Instead the CEO of a global public company prefers to threaten closing paper mills and sackings than seek to advance the start of negotiations and find a solution to the dispute. The image of UPM as an employer and its reputation as a responsible company will persist for a long time and cause lasting damage."

UPM is making considerable losses due to the lack of a collective agreement for its pulp and paper mill workers. Some analysts estimate the company is suffering a direct loss of 2 - 3 million euro in profit every day.

UPM remains silent on the figures, its financial statement on 27 January says only "At this point in time, we are not disclosing estimates of the economic impact of the strike".

Read more:

Ideology takes upper hand in UMP labour market policy (27.01.2022)