UPM ramps up onslaught on workers’ collective bargaining rights in Finland

Wednesday 14 April 2021

Employees at UPM have sent an open letter to management accusing them of betrayal, following the unilateral annulling of collective bargaining with white collar workers. Outrage has flared at the Finland-based forest industry multinational following a second consecutive offensive by management against the workers’ collective rights.

In this letter, sent by nearly 40 shop stewards from across the country in response to management announcing it would scrap collective bargaining with white collar workers at company-wide level, employees demand that the terms of their work be negotiated collectively with Trade Union Pro, that represents them.

This escalation by UPM’s management follows a deal amongst forest industry employers to impose a conflictive model of employment relations. Until very recently, working conditions in the sector were negotiated at sector level as well as at company level. In October 2020, the forest industry employer organisation announced it would no longer negotiate at a sector level.

Following that announcement, UPM’s management informed the workers of their intention to continue negotiating collectively at the company level. In contradiction to this initial position, it emitted a shock announcement on 8 February 2021 that it would also move to end collective bargaining for white collars at company level.

“A responsible employer cannot act like this without consequences. How can the employer in this day and age pursue a return to dictatorial policies with such a contempt towards the contractual society that has provided the basis for the company’s success?” said Jorma Malinen, President of Trade Union Pro.

UPM’s social responsibility has been questioned elsewhere too. Earlier this March a UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights reported its concern over monitoring of human rights in UPM’s operations abroad.

Back in Finland, employers in tech industry revealed their parallel deal to end sector-wide collective bargaining last month. This suggests a coordinated approach by employers at a cross-sector level.

The Finnish model, which has had collective bargaining at its core, has delivered shared prosperity. Over the past decades it has seen good economic performance evolve hand-in-hand with low income inequality. Recently that has begun to change and income inequality has begin to creep in. This attack by employers will accelerate this trend. Collective bargaining isn’t just for workers, it is essential for maintaining social cohesion in our societies. That’s everyone’s business and it is time all actors banded together to reject the corporate greed behind these actions,” said Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa.

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