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Forest industries counter strike threat with a lockout announcement

The six-day lockout in the wood products industry is a response to a three-day strike previously announced by the Industry Union.

Image: Jaana Polamo, Yle

The Finnish Forest Industries Federation has announced a six-day lockout of union workers from the wood products industry, starting 12 December.

During the lockout, workers of the Industrial Union will not be allowed to access their workplaces at sawmills and plywood mills. They also won’t be paid any wages during the period, Federation officials said in a release.

The lockout is a direct response to a three-day strike previously announced by the union which is to be held from 9-11 December.

The strike was declared when the union and employers' organisation couldn’t agree on a collective agreement for the wood products industry, which includes sawmill, plywood, chipboard, fibreboard and wood construction industries.

In response, Forest Industries Federation officials announced the lockout which they said would put pressure on the Industrial Union to return to the negotiating table.

Mills to shut down

The lockout will target employees of all the member firms affected by the union strike. — a total of 32 saw, plywood, veneer and glue mills.

Mills affected by the union strike will remain shut during the lockout, Federation director Jyrki Hollmén told the STT news agency on Wednesday.

The union strike will involve 35,000 employees from a total of 180 companies. According to union workers, the employers’ demands would significantly worsen their working conditions.

Dispute over working hours

The biggest bone of contention between the two parties, Hollmén said, is working time and competitiveness pact hours.

According to the Federation, the union abruptly concluded collective bargaining negotiations for the wood products industry well before the end of the contract period.

"Industrial Union has not been willing to negotiate the agreement if working hours are not reduced," said Hollmén.

The Federation director also told STT that the forest industry is facing tough competition and that the business cycle is in a downturn.

“We compete with Baltic countries, Poland and Russia. They have lower labour costs and longer working hours than in Finland. It is absolutely impossible that Finland's response would be to reduce working hours during a declining business cycle,” Hollmén said.

The lockout will last from 12-18 December.