UPM boss pleads for continuity, understanding from politicians after factory closure

The company has made thousands of workers in Finland redundant in the last two decades.

UPM CEO Jussi Pesonen said he wants Finland to have more continuity between governments. Image: Leila Oksa / Yle

UPM CEO Jussi Pesonen says he wants consistency in economic policy between government terms to make it easier for firms to invest in the country, following his decision to make 450 people redundant and close a paper mill in Jämsä, central Finland.

"I have wanted to start a discussion about the need to develop an economic policy that continues across government terms, which would enable profitable industrial operations and investment," said Pesonen on Yle's Ykkösaamu show on Saturday. "That would include industrial, tax and labour market questions."

Last month UPM had announced it would shut its last remaining newsprint mill in Finland, Kaipola, with the loss of some 450 jobs.

At the time Pesonen published an open letter criticising government policy and taxation rates, sparking a vigorous debate on corporate social responsibility and the current government's policies.

This week's All Points North podcast looked at the debate between business leaders and the government. You can listen to the full podcast via the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify (siirryt toiseen palveluun), Apple Podcasts (siirryt toiseen palveluun) or your usual podcast player using the RSS feed (siirryt toiseen palveluun). Be sure to subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts and sign up for the APN newsletter.

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One week ago Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) had appeared on the same Yle programme and questioned UPM's corporate social responsibility, arguing that the Kaipola mill had been profitable.

When that claim was put to him, Pesonen would not be drawn on individual factories but said that the graphic paper division was loss-making this year, as the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically transformed the business environment.

"The effect on UPM has been two-fold," said Pesonen. "Demand for graphic papers has dropped considerably thanks to shutdowns as companies, offices and schools closed down, reducing the use of printed adverts and copying paper. At the same time the shutdowns have affected retail demand and online retailing, which has increased demand for different types of stickers and specialist papers."

Pesonen said that he was making his interventions to try and influence the public debate and make it more profitable to run factories in Finland.

"Raising issues openly is not looking to attribute blame but an attempt to fix those issues," said Pesonen. "It would be a disappointment to me if in 2030 we are forced to conclude that Finland's public debt has grown out of control, new investments have not increased and Finland has more and more closed factories."

Edited on 27.10.2020 to reflect that UPM's Kaipola mill was the firm's last remaining newsprint plant in Finland.