Helsinki (14.02.2022 - Heikki Jokinen) After a long bout of shadow-boxing, negotiations for the forestry company UPM workers' collective agreement have begun. The National Conciliator has invited the parties to meet on 14 February.

The paper industry collective agreement expired at the end of December, but UPM did not want to begin to draft a new one unless its preconditions as to the form of the agreement are fully met.

The Finnish Electrical Workers' Union and the Paper Workers' Union had no other choice but to begin a strike at UPM mills and plants. The strike has now been going on since 1 January.

UPM said no to various attempts by the Paper Workers' Union to find a way towards genuine negotiations. Finally, the union agreed to begin negotiations on separate collective agreements for various business sectors, as UPM had requested.

This obviously confused UPM. First, they again said no - to something that was basically their own proposal. However, soon they realised that this could be interpreted as pretty strange and agreed to meet the union.

Creative excuse from UPM

It did not take long before UPM came up with a new excuse. Jyrki Hollmén, UPM labour markets director, said that the company cannot negotiate with the union if there are people from other forestry companies, too, involved in the union decision-making process.

"Due to anti-trust compliance, genuine negotiations on UPM’s business-specific issues could not be conducted", Hollmén explained in the UPM press release. "It is impossible for us to have representatives of our competitors attend our negotiations."

This is just spreading the fog of war, as UPM knows very well that the union decision-making bodies are composed not only of UPM workers. That the company wants to select the ones that represent the union, which is totally against workers' rights and hitherto unheard of.

Riku Aalto, the President of the Industrial Union, points out in his Twitter message that collective agreements are carefully scrutinised by the union decision-making bodies and members of these bodies must know what kind of agreements the union are making.

"It should not be news fto UPM either", Aalto wrote. "This is how we handled [UPM] collective agreements, and there were no complaints from the company."

In December, the Industrial Union made collective agreements with UPM Plywood and UPM Timber, negotiated by the union and accepted by the union board. Now, a similar process is, according to UPM, against anti-trust legislation.


Read more:

UPM’s refusal to engage in collective bargaining means losses in profit of up to 20 million euro a week (02.02.2022)

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

UPM promise to pay extra to strikebreakers (20.12.2021)