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Forest industry firms extend lockout, union signals strike as wage talks drag on

Workers affected by the lockout will not be allowed on site and will not be paid for its duration.

A strike monitor at a UPM plant in Lappeenranta, southeast Finland. Image: Lauri Heino / Lehtikuva
Yle News

Forest industry employers have decided to extend a worker lockout as wage negotiations with labour unions fail to reach a settlement.

On Wednesday Finnish Forest Industries (Metsäteollisuus) said that the lockout would affect members of Trade Union Pro and the Electrical Workers’ Union and would be extended from three to seven days.

Last Sunday the employers’ lobby announced a three-day lockout that would shut down paper, cardboard and pulp machines at 12 production facilities, starting on 10 February.

"We are using the lockout to try and advance negotiations with all of the unions that are on strike. It is extremely unfortunate that we have not reached a settlement on the terms of the competitiveness pact," Metsäteollisuus labour market director Jyrki Hollmén said in a statement.

Hollmén was referring to an additional 24 hours of unpaid annual work baked in to the Juha Sipilä government’s competitiveness pact introduced in 2016.

Unions now want the provision eliminated from future competitive bargaining agreements because they say that the economic environment has improved considerably and it is no longer required. Employers want to retain the measure.

Union members to lose pay, benefits

The extension of the worker lockout by four days from 10 – 16 February will immediately follow ongoing strike action by Pro and the electrical workers union.

During the lockout members of these unions will not be allowed into the workplace, nor will they be paid. The industrial action will also restrict these workers’ right to vacation leave and other employee benefits.

Meanwhile on Wednesday afternoon, professional workers’ union Pro responded to news of the extended lockout by announcing a one-week work stoppage from 13 – 19 February. The union said in a statement that the decision was prompted by the forest industry employers’ move to expand the worker lockout.

Pro chair Jorma Malinen said that Metsäteollisuus’ decision to extend the lockout has undermined the negotiating environment.

"We want Metsäteollisuus to begin actively working with Pro to find a solution to this escalating industrial dispute," Malinen said in the statement.

Pro’s new strike advisory will apply to all white collar workers covered by a collective agreement between Pro and Metsäteollisuus, with the exception of employees of paper products firms Kotka Mills and Tervakoski. Neither of these two companies has implemented the additional 24 unpaid annual hours of work at the centre of the dispute.

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