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UPM strikers' support broadens with strike pay subsidies

The strike at UPM paper plants has lasted 85 days.

Sign outside a UPM plant in Rauma. Image: Mari Kahila / Yle

The dispute between paper workers and the UPM company looks more entrenched than ever, with the Industrial Union stepping in to fund strike pay for Paperworkers' Union members.

The support is estimated to cost the bigger union 2.2 million euros, but Industrial Union leaders said they 'would not leave the Paperworkers' Union to fight alone'.

The support will ensure the strike can continue, with strike pay estimated to be costing some 200,000 euros per day.

The Paperworkers' Union has asked its members to pay a voluntary subsidy of 50 euros to help support the strikers at UPM plants.

Analysts have estimated that UPM is losing 2-3 million euros a day as the strike grinds on, with impacts on the availability of newsprint and even self-adhesive labels for food packaging (siirryt toiseen palveluun) likely to impact the broader economy.

The strike reached its 86th day on Friday.

"UPM management has to give up on weakening terms and conditions and increasing the employers' power to dictate them," read the Industrial Union press release.

"The Paperworkers' Union's demands are totally in line with what other firms in the sector have agreed months ago."

Broad support from unions

Most strike pay is paid by the unions directly involved in the dispute, but the blue collar confederation SAK has asked other member unions to support the striking paper workers.

There is a proposed resolution to the dispute in UPM's Pulp mills currently on the table from Leo Suomaa, a conciliator working at the National Conciliator's office, with the parties having a deadline of 14 April to respond.

The union has said that it wants an agreement for all business units, and will try to agree that before the deadline.

The Industrial Union said in its statement that UPM's actions will be counterproductive for employers, who have for years advocated separate deals for each company as opposed to sector-wide deals that have traditionally been agreed in Finland.

UPM, on the other hand, wants different terms and conditions for different business units.

"The UPM leadership's stubbornness will backfire on the rest of Finnish business as they try to push company-specific labour agreements," said the statement. "Trust in company-specific agreements has weakened as a result of the long dispute and UPM's unreasonable demands. The central disagreement is about business unit-specific agreements and extending working hours."

UPM declined to comment on the dispute to Yle.