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Metsähallitus threatens temporary lay off of all 357 loggers

Finland’s state-owned forest administrator Metsähallitus announced Friday that it is considering temporarily laying off 357 loggers for three months of the year in order to streamline services. The group’s labour representative wonders why the cost-saving measure targets lumberjacks in particular.

Rajamies karsii puuta.
Image: Anu Rummukainen / Yle

A Metsähallitus press release on Friday announced that it will be starting redundancy talks  that would affect all of its 357 loggers. Metsähallitus says the forest workers will likely be laid off for the winter months during January, February and March.

Employee spokesman, Reijo Kontinen, wonders why cutbacks at Metsähallitus always seem to target the timber workers.

"The legal reform that took place quietly this spring in effect privatised forest work. Even so, the amendment made mention of an effort to promote more jobs, especially in the northern regions. We had several assurances of this. We loggers opposed the change. It seems strange that layoffs always seem to be directed at the loggers. There are plenty of other people working for the organisation. Why is it always the lumberjacks who are sacrificed?” he asks.

Metsähallitus was created in the mid-1800s as a provisional national board for land surveying and forest management. Since then the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has charged the state-run organisation with the maintenance of Finland's forest areas and national parks.

Last spring, the Finnish Parliament approved a new law that transferred the forestry business of Metsähallitus to a limited liability company. The company would be fully owned by the state, but also fully compliant with EU law, as the setup was designed to be ‘competition neutral’.

No decisions yet

Of the 357 loggers who work for Metsähallitus, approximately 150 work in Lapland. While modern equipment like harvesters, feller bunchers and skidders have been developed to fell and transport the logs, individual lumberjacks are still needed in hard-to-access areas, and many are involved in important forest maintenance work.

Jussi Kumpula is the CEO of Metsähallitus’ newly-launched limited liability company, Metsätalous Ltd. He said that possible layoffs would occur during the winter months because most felling work is completed when the ground has thawed, as that is when harvesting is easiest.

"These days, individual loggers working in the high snow drifts of the peak winter season is very rare indeed," he said, but he added that nothing has been decided for certain.

The Metsähallitus press release states that in order to safeguard Metsätalous Ltd's competitiveness and profitability, current operations must be made more efficient. 

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