Finland: Forestry workers on strike – No Work without Compensation

30 January 2020 14:11

On the 27th of January 2020, the Paper Workers’ Union began a three-week strike after the Finnish Forest Industries employer organization and the Paper Union failed to reach an agreement. 

The Paper Workers’ Union estimates that 9,000 of its members will participate in the strike that will shut down pulp and paper mills across the country. At the same time, the Industrial Union launched a strike in the mechanical forest industry. They expect about 6,000 of its members to participate in industrial action at sawmills and plywood mills.

In response to trade union action, the Finnish Forest Industries announced that it will impose a lockout at 12 pulp, paper and cardboard mills.

The major point of disagreement is a “Competitiveness Pact”, which was introduced in summer 2017 and initiated by the then-right-wing government. Under the act, workers must work twenty-four hours a year without compensation. Under the same legislation, public-sector workers experienced a decrease in vacation pay by 30 per cent. 

Unions argue that the Competitiveness Pact was a temporary instrument and is no longer relevant given improved economic performance. They maintain that there should be no work without compensation. 

“The Finnish unions have calculated that the whole Competitiveness Pact, introduced in 2017, has produced benefits for companies of close to 6 billion EUR until 2020,” said Jari Hakkarainen, Head of International Affairs for the Industrial Union of Finland. 

Employers consider the Competitiveness Pact to be a permanent measure that will protect their position in the global market. They also argue that it will help to attract investment.

“BWI and its affiliates express full solidarity with forestry workers in Finland. There should be no work without compensation in Finland or in any other country. Workers, when united, can win the fight for fair wages and decent working conditions.” said Coen van der Veer, BWI European Regional Representative.